Missouri gained more than 7,000 jobs in the first quarter of the year, partially because of growth in its manufacturing sector, according to a survey conducted at Creighton University in Nebraska.
The Mid-America Business Conditions Survey found that Midwestern manufacturers are receiving more orders for their products. Missouri’s overall economic index was the highest since 1994, and most factors in the survey showed economic strength.
“We’ve seen positive economic indicators for some time now,” said Bernie Andrews, president of Boone County’s Regional Economic Development Inc. “So this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to me.”
Columbia’s diverse economy already has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.0 percent. Even so, local manufacturers are beginning to hire more people, Andrews said.
Knernschield Manufacturing Co., an electronics assembly plant in Columbia, has hired about 40 new full-time employees since February to keep up with increasing orders, said plant manager Mark Hofmeister.
Andrews cited 3M, which laid off more than 100 employees last fall and hired almost all of them back earlier this year, as an example of a business that’s beginning to hire more people. The company recently hired some temporary employees.
“Generally, what I’ve seen is that most of the companies that have laid off workers have first hired those people back and then added more temporary employees,” he said. However, until the upward trend in orders appears to be long-term, Andrews said most companies will hire temporary employees to avoid having to go through lay-offs if business slows.
The survey looked at nine states in the central United States — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota — and found that the region’s overall economic index in April was 70.3, the highest recorded since the survey began about 10 years ago. An index reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Components of the overall index were 84.8 for new orders, 83.1 for production, 50.8 for inventories, 57.7 for delivery time and 64.6 for employment. The survey predicted that job growth would strengthen in Missouri in the second and third quarters of this year.
New export orders rose because the weaker dollar makes U.S. goods cheaper abroad and because trading partners are also experiencing an economic upswing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.