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Local & Regional

Economic Outlook: Steady



A monthly survey of business supply managers suggests a slight decline in the economic conditions for nine Midwest and Plains states, according to a report.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index report said the overall regional economic index dropped to 55.5 in May from 61.4 in April. The March figure was 60.1.

The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor, while a score below that suggests decline.

"The overall index over the past several months indicates a healthy regional manufacturing economy, and points to healthy growth for both manufacturing and nonmanufacturing through the third quarter of this year," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey.

The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The May employment index remained well above growth neutral, although it slipped to 62.3 last month from 62.9 in April.

"The nonmanufacturing sector of the regional economy continues to outperform the manufacturing sector, but that gap is closing," Goss said. "Even with the recent boost in employment growth, total regional employment growth (year over year) is now only 1 percent, and well below the nation's 1.6 percent gain over the same time period."

Economic optimism, as reflected by the May business confidence index, declined to a still strong 61.4 in May from 69.5 in April.

"Strong profit growth and still low interest rates boosted the economic outlook among supply managers in the nine-state region," Goss said.

In two regional measures of foreign trade, the new export orders index fell to 54.0 last month from 60.5 in April and 61.6 in March. The import index dropped to 52.4 from 60.7 in April and 62.8 in March.