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Creighton economist: Midwest economy continues in right direction

Ernie Goss

OMAHA — While the Midwestern economy hit its lowest point in 11 years last April, the region has continued to climb out for eight of the past nine months.

A survey of business leaders in Iowa and across the Midwest shows the January numbers are very healthy, according to Creighton University economist Ernie Goss.
“In terms of the overall economy in the nine-state region, we’re still down from pre-COVID levels, but boy, we’re moving in the right direction,” Goss says. “I’m expecting this to continue and with the vaccine coming out across the region, we’ll see those numbers improve even more in the weeks and months ahead.”

On a scale of zero to 100 where 50 is growth neutral, the survey shows Iowa’s business conditions index climbed to 71.5 in January, up from 64.7 in December. Supply managers and business owners were asked how the pandemic has most impacted their operations in the past year.

“Seventy-five percent named worker absences as their number-one problem that their company has encountered,” Goss says. “Six of ten identified vendor business stoppage and 43% reported cancellation of business meetings.”

The nation’s economic outlook appears to be strengthening, Goss says, but the first quarter won’t likely be that stellar. “We’ve got too many state economies that are locked down and that would, of course, be New York and California and others as well,” Goss says. “You’ve got the schools closed. That lowers the economic activity for those businesses connected to that sector, but the second, third and fourth quarters I think will remain very strong.”

Employment for the Midwest region is still down almost five-percent from a year ago. Since bottoming out last April, Goss says Iowa’s manufacturing employment has expanded by almost 14,000 jobs, for a 6.4% gain.

He adds, Creighton’s surveys over the past several months indicate that rate of growth for the state will continue well into 2021.

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