Midwest economic survey figures show slight improvement

Figures from a survey of supply managers in nine Midwest and Plains states have risen slightly but still suggest slow or no economic growth ahead, according to a monthly report issued Thursday.

The Mid-American Business Conditions index inched up to 47.8 in August from 47.6 in July, the report said.

"Weakness among manufacturers linked to agriculture and energy continue to weigh on regional economic conditions," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. "Due to the heavy dependence of the region on these two sectors, I will expect to see the regional economy to continue to underperform the national economy."

The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The regional employment gauge showed the region's manufacturing sector continued to lose jobs. The index dropped to 44.0 from July's 46.9.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate the region's manufacturing sector has lost more than 22,000 jobs for a loss of 1.6 percent of total manufacturing jobs over the past year, Goss said. By comparison, the region gained 102,000 jobs for all sectors for an increase of 0.8 percent, he said.

Economic optimism, as captured by the August business confidence index, sank to 45.4 last month from July's 47.0. Goss cited global economic uncertainty and the region's weaknesses in the agricultural and energy sectors for the supply managers' dour outlook.

The wholesale inflation gauge remained in a range indicating modest inflationary pressures at the wholesale level, Goss said, though the prices-paid index declined to 56.5 from July's 60.8. On average, he said, supply managers expect prices for their companies' products to rise by 1.6 percent in the second half of 2016.