Business Leaders Survey Hits Highest Level in 16 Years

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The overall economic measure of a monthly survey of Midwest business leaders hit a 16-year high for October, but the manufacturing sector of the economy remains stunted from the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index released Monday.

The overall index of improved to 70.2 in October from September’s already strong 65.1. Any score above 50 on the survey’s indexes suggests growth, while a figure below 50 indicates decline. 

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said that the index mirrored national survey results showing that the manufacturing sector has been expanding.

“Even so, current output in the regional and U.S. manufacturing sectors remains below pre-COVID-19 levels,” Goss said. “More than three of four supply managers reported negative COVID-19 impacts.” 

Job growth remains strong in the region, with the employment index growing to 66.7 from 61.8 in September. Goss said the region’s unemployment rate fell to 2.9% in October after hitting a high of 11% in May. Before the coronavirus outbreak began, unemployment in region was at 1.3%. About 8 of 10 supply managers reported shortages of qualified workers to fill open positions at their firms in October, Goss said.

Business leaders remained optimistic about the next six months, with the confidence index growing to 70.4 from 69.4 in September. 

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

The overall index for Arkansas fell to 64.4 from September’s 68.5. Components of the index were: new orders at 75.5, production or sales at 72.4, delivery lead time at 63.4, inventories at 48.5, and employment at 62.1.

“Validating a rapidly improving state economy, U.S. Department of Labor data indicate that the state’s insured unemployment rate stood a 0.9% in the second week of March, peaked at 11.7% in the third week of May, and fell to 1.8% in the third week of October,” Goss said.

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