An economic index points to slightly negative to no growth in the next three to six months for Nebraska and most of a nine-state Mid-America region, while predicting some growth ahead for Iowa.
The regional December Business Conditions Index, released Wednesday, is based on a survey of business supply managers. The index grew to 49.5, a small improvement over November's 48.0 and October's 46.5, said Ernie Goss, director of Creighton University's Economic Forecasting Group. The index approached the growth-neutral level of 50 and Goss said there is no indication of a recession ahead.
Nebraska's indicator increased to 48.4 and Iowa's to 53.8.
Goss said jobs in Nebraska have more than kept up with notable growth in the labor force, driving unemployment to the second lowest in the nation.
But while the state has gained almost 3,000 manufacturing jobs since July 2009, Goss said surveys now point to “slow to no” job gains for the first half of 2013 in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing roles.
Iowa's indicator has been above growth-neutral for 36 months. Goss said surveys there point to moderate overall job gains ahead with slight job losses in manufacturing.
Iowa's unemployment rate also has declined, a combination of job growth and a reduction of nearly 22,000 people in the labor force over the last year, Goss said.
Overall in the nine-state region, economic optimism rose, with the business confidence portion of the index up to 50 from 43.5. The region includes Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Goss said an improving housing market was a factor.
“Given recent declines in consumer confidence from national surveys, it was surprising to calculate an uptick in the business confidence reading, although it remains at a low level,” Goss said.
Confidence did not translate to an increase in the wholesale prices firms can charge. The prices-paid index, which tracks the cost of purchased raw materials and supplies, fell to 63.5.
“The cheap dollar policy of the Federal Reserve has thus far failed to ignite inflation or economic growth in the nation or region,” Goss said. “Instead, slower global growth and elevated unemployment remain an obstacle to significantly raising wholesale prices.”
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