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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A survey of Midwest corporate supply managers has found conditions worsened in March in a nine-state region stretching from North Dakota to Arkansas.
The Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index slid to 51.4 last month from February's 57. Readings in excess of 51 indicate an expanding economy, while those 50 or less indicate a shrinking economy.
Ernie Goss, director of Creighton's Economic Forecasting Group that compiles the monthly index, said non-durable manufacturers, including food processors and ethanol producers, reported sales, production and employment have weakened over the past several months.
'While our surveys are detecting weaker growth for firms tied to oil production, the surveys have yet to record substantial negative outcomes for North Dakota and Oklahoma,” Goss said in a news release.
The regional employment gauge remained in a range indicating positive, but slow job growth for manufacturing and value-added services firms in the region. The job gauge expanded to 52.5 in March from 50.8 the previous month.
'Businesses in the region reported receiving five applicants for every three jobs,” Goss said. 'Supply managers reported an average yearly entry-level salary for college graduates of $45,500.”
Iowa's Business Conditions Index declined to 51.6 in March from February's 52.6. Goss said Iowa's dependence on international trade and exports is less than that of the nation, but greater than the rest of the region.
'Thus, the rising value of the U.S. dollar, making U.S. goods less competitively priced abroad, represents more of an economic challenge for Iowa's growth going forward than for the region and nation,” he said. 'Iowa's chief trading partner is Canada, and its No. 1 exported product is agriculture machinery.”