Survey suggests region's economy continues to grow

Monday, October 3, 2011 | 2:45 p.m. CDT

OMAHA, Neb. — The economy in nine Midwest and Plains states will likely continue to grow at a slow pace with little chance of another recession, according to a monthly survey of business managers released Monday.

The region's overall economic index increased to 52.2 in September from August's 52. Any score above 50 suggests economic growth in the next few months.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the relative strength of businesses tied to agriculture or exports in the region is helping the economy.

"I expect the region to continue to expand at an anemic pace with little potential for a recession in this region for the near term," said Goss, who oversees the survey.

Nevertheless, the business leaders surveyed aren't very confident about their prospects. The survey's confidence index slid to 40.5 in September from August's 43.4 as concerns about Europe's economy continued to grow.

"Even though the regional economy continues to grow, albeit at a weak pace, supply managers remain concerned about the likely impact of a U.S. recession," Goss said.

The survey also suggests that hiring is slowing in the region. The September employment index increased to 49.6 from August's 49 but remained in negative territory below 50.

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

The prices-paid index, which tracks the cost of raw materials and supplies, declined to 66.3 in September from August's 71.

The inventory index grew to 55 in September from August's 50.5. Goss said he thinks inventories might have grown because of declines in sales and production.

The export index dropped to 48.8 in September from August's 54.8, which is a concern because exports are important to the region. The import index declined to 45.5 in September from August's 46.6.

The other components of the September index were:

— New orders at 49.6 in September, down from August's 51.2;

— Production or sales at 50.4, down from August's 54.2;

— Delivery lead time at 56.4, up from August's 55.

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