Business

Midwest economic index highest since 2004

Respondents still cite shortage of qualified workers to fill positions

Ernie Goss

Creighton University
Ernie Goss Creighton University

A monthly Midwest regional business conditions index expanded in October to its highest level in 16 years.

The Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index, an economic indicator for a nine-state region that includes Iowa, increased to 70.2 last month from 65.1 in September.

Since April, the overall index has risen six consecutive months.

“Creighton’s monthly survey results have mirrored the national manufacturing survey results indicating that the manufacturing sector has been expanding at a very healthy pace since sinking to a post-2008 recession low in April,” said Ernie Goss, director of Creighton’s Economic Forecasting Group.

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

The regional employment index moved to 66.7 in October, from 61.8 in September — its highest level in more than two decades.

Almost eight of 10, or 78.6 percent of supply managers, reported shortages of qualified workers to fill open positions at their companies in October.

Looking ahead six months, economic optimism, as captured by the October Business Confidence Index, climbed to a very strong 70.4 from 69.4 for September.

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“An expanding manufacturing sector, the federal stimulus plan and the Federal Reserve monetary incentive programs supported October’s very healthy confidence index,” Goss said.

Iowa’s Business Conditions Index climbed to 78.7 last month from 67.1 in September.

Components of the overall October index were:

• New orders at 82.1

• Production or sales at 71.2

• Delivery lead time at 69.3

• Employment at 80.9

• Inventories at 93.4.

“Validating a rapidly improving state economy, U.S. Department of Labor data indicate that Iowa’s insured unemployment rate stood at 1.7 percent in the second week of March, peaked at 12.4 percent in the first week of May, and fell to 2.6 percent in the third week of October,” Goss said.

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