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Survey: Iowa’s economic numbers plummeted during December

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss

OMAHA — For the second straight month, a Creighton University survey of business leaders shows the economies declining in both Iowa and the nine-state Midwest region.

Creighton economist Ernie Goss says the leading economic indicator for the survey ranges from zero to one-hundred, with 50 being growth neutral. “The overall number was still very strong, looking very good, but it was down from 69.0 in November to 64.1 in December,” Goss says. “So, things are still moving along.”

For Iowa, the overall business conditions index took a big tumble during the closing month of the year, falling almost ten full points from 74.6 in November to 64.7 in December. Last April, the pandemic pushed the region’s overall index to its lowest level in 11 years. Since April, the index climbed above growth neutral for seven of the past eight months.  “We still need to see several more months of above 50.0, or growth neutral, to get back to pre-COVID-19 levels,” Goss says. “Now, we’re down about four to five percent in terms of employment. It’s not as fast as we’d like to see but it’s certainly moving in the right direction.”

Looking ahead six months, economic optimism dropped for the region to 45.8 in December from November’s 50.0. Goss says a “sharp upturn in COVID-19 infections, along with more economic lockdowns, weighed on December’s economic outlook.” The survey found the region’s hiring numbers also fell from around 63 in November to 58 in December. “Thirty-six percent indicated that finding and hiring qualified workers was their biggest concern for 2021,” Goss says. “The next highest reading was 28-percent indicated that U.S. economic weakness was their number-one concern.”

Since the onset of COVID-19 in February, Goss says the Iowa economy has lost a net of 78,000 non-farm jobs, or almost five-percent.

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