A new survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states inched upward in May from April’s record low, but still remained profoundly low as efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the rural economy.

The overall index for the region rose slightly to 12.5 from April’s record low of 12.1. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy, while a score above 50 suggests a growing economy, survey organizers say.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey from Omaha, said nearly three of every four bankers surveyed reported restructuring farm loans to deal with weak farm income.

“As a result of the restructuring, bank CEOs expect farm loan defaults to expand by only 5.4% in the next 12 months,” Goss said.

The survey’s confidence index, which measures how bankers feel about the economy over the next six months, sank to 22.1 from April’s 27.4 based on bankers’ observations of weak agriculture commodity prices and layoffs.

The borrowing index slipped to 72.2 from April’s 75.8.

Bankers from Nebraska and Iowa were among those surveyed.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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