The new survey of business leaders and supply managers in Nebraska and eight other Midwestern states finds the economy is growing stronger and more robust.
Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the monthly Business Conditions Index, a leading economic indicator, has risen for five straight months.
“This index is very strong and it’s much stronger than what we’re seeing in the national economy,” Goss says. “What’s driving a lot of it is exports, agriculture and energy. Actually, energy is contributing to the growth in this part of the country, so it was a very good report.”
Higher energy prices are having a larger, negative impact elsewhere in the country but not as much in the Midwest, Goss says. The housing sector, too, is hurting other areas of the nation but it’s seeing a pickup here in our region.
“Of course, you’ve got agriculture and exports which are really continuing to be strong,” Goss says. “For example, agricultural equipment manufacturers. If you’re making products, manufacturing goods for the farm, you’re doing very well. Even on the non-equipment side, the Monsantos, the softer side of the agricultural providers, doing very well.”
For the Midwest region overall, Goss predicts the unemployment rates will continue to drop over the coming weeks, but he is noting a growing problem in several states, including Nebraska.
“We’re seeing supply managers out there reporting they’re having a difficult time finding and hiring skilled workers,” Goss says. “This is skilled workers, not unskilled workers, particularly in durable goods manufacturing, that would be heavy manufacturing.”
For the 17th straight month, Nebraska’s Business Conditions Index remained above growth neutral. “Heavy manufacturers in the state which are tied to exports are experiencing very healthy growth,” Goss says. “In addition, firms tied to agriculture continue to expand sales and employment.”
As a result of expanding economic conditions, Goss says he expects the state’s unemployment rate to dip slightly below four-percent in the months ahead.