Economic survey of Midwest shows gains for third straight month

OMAHA — As the weather got warmer, so did the state and regional economies, according to the monthly Creighton University survey of supply managers in Iowa and eight other states.

Creighton economist Ernie Goss says for the third straight month, the Midwest’s overall index climbed above growth neutral, which is 50 on a zero-to-100 scale. Goss says the region’s April numbers were particularly encouraging.  “The overall reading jumped significantly up,” Goss says. “It’s still in a slow-growth range to April 54.8, and that’s up from March’s slightly-above-growth neutral reading of 50.8. It was a good reading, but still not back up to the readings we saw at this time last year.”

The survey found almost six in ten supply managers fear recession will strike later this year, while about half report having trouble finding qualified workers to fill open positions.  “We’re still seeing labor hoarding out there, because companies really are attempting to not let loose of workers,” Goss says. “They don’t want to let them go knowing full well they may not ever get them back. So in some cases, we’re seeing workers not being fully busy at their jobs, so that’s bringing down productivity.”

For April, Goss says hiring numbers were weak. On the plus side for consumers, the survey shows inflation is finally backing off.  “The inflation gauge dropped. It’s down from March’s 77.1 down to April 67.4, and that’s the lowest reading since December of 2022,” Goss says. “We’re seeing less and less inflationary pressures now as the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates and that is putting downward pressure on prices.”

Iowa’s economic numbers looked especially good during April, as the overall index jumped from 49.4 in March to 55.8, well over growth neutral. Goss says between the first quarter of 2022 and this year’s first quarter, Iowa’s hourly manufacturing wages climbed by more than eight-percent.