Business

Shipping bottlenecks affecting supplies, delivery, Midwest business index shows

Manufacturing output below pre-coronavirus levels

A worker welds a shank assembly used in the production of planters at Kinze Manufacturing in Williamsburg, Iowa, on Thur
A worker welds a shank assembly used in the production of planters at Kinze Manufacturing in Williamsburg, Iowa, on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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For the fourth straight month, a reading of business conditions in Iowa and eight other Midwest states expanded in September to its highest level since May 2018.

The Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index, which ranges between 0 and 100, increased to 65.1 from 60.0 in August.

While the manufacturing sector has been expanding at a solid pace since sinking to a post-2008 recession low in April, Ernie Goss, director of Creighton’s Economic Forecasting Group, said current output in the regional and national manufacturing sectors remains well below pre-COVID-19 levels.

In addition, approximately 62.9 percent of supply managers reported shipping bottlenecks and difficulties in receiving materials and transporting output in September.

The regional employment index moved above growth neutral for September to its highest level since June 2019, climbing to 61.8 from 54.8 in August.

Four of five supply managers reported their companies were experiencing difficulty finding and hiring qualified workers.

Before the onset of the novel coronavirus, the insured unemployment rate for the region stood at 1.3 percent. It reached a high of 11 percent in May and fell to 4.6 percent in September.

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Looking ahead six months, economic optimism, as measured by the September Business Confidence Index, dipped to a still strong 69.4, from 73.3 in August.

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

Iowa’s Business Conditions Index climbed to 67.1 in September from 56.4 in August.

“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 4.3 percent in the first week of September,” Goss said.

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