Business Leaders Say Economy Still Improving After Reopening

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OMAHA, Neb. — The economy continues to recover in nine Midwest and Plains states, but businesses are still cutting jobs amid the ongoing impact of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a monthly survey of business leaders released Monday.

The Mid-American Business Conditions index for the region improved to 57.4 in July from June’s 50.3. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below 50 suggests decline. 

“While the June and July’s readings were much higher than I expected, they provide no grounds for celebration,” Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said.

The region’s overall index will have to remain above 50 for many months before the economy reaches the point it was at before states began imposing restrictions because of the coronavirus, Goss said.

The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Job losses have slowed in the region, but they continue to be reported. The employment index improved to 48.5 in July from June’s 38.9, but it remained in negative territory.

But business leaders are optimistic about the next six months. The survey’s confidence index increased to a strong 68.3 in July from June’s 65.3.

The overall index for Arkansas rose to 61 from June’s 50.9. Components of the index were: new orders at 68.7, production or sales at 67.6, delivery lead time at 66, inventories at 46.7, and employment at 56.0.

According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arkansas has lost 63,000 jobs, or about 5% of its total employment since the coronavirus outbreak began and 16,000, or about 10%, of its manufacturing employment.

“Our surveys point to only slight job gains in the months ahead,” Goss said.

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