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Local & Regional

Survey: Economic Growth Continues But Slowing In Mid-America Region

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A monthly manufacturing survey shows economic growth continuing in a nine-state region that includes Oklahoma, but surging coronavirus cases are starting to put a damper on expectations.

The latest Mid-America Business Conditions Index out of Creighton University showed regional growth continuing to outpace the U.S. as a whole, but it dropped for a second straight month after a six-month climb, falling from 69 to 64.1.

Numbers above 50 on the zero to 100 scale indicate economic growth.

"We’re moving in the right direction. What we can say overall is growth is slowing somewhat, and that is a concern. But right now, still in the positive growth range," said Creighton economist Ernie Goss.

Oklahoma’s overall business conditions index climbed out of contraction territory from November to December, rising from 49.4 to 55.9. Kansas was the weakest state in the region, with an index of 55.3.

Employment is a concern moving forward. Goss said the region’s job count is down 4.7%, and no state has yet recovered the jobs it lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The best-performing state in the region for 2020 was Nebraska, at -3.1%. … The worst-performing state for 2020 among our nine mid-America states was North Dakota at -7.2%," Goss said.

Oklahoma’s employment is at -4.3%. Regionwide, more than one-third of supply managers said finding qualified workers would be their top challenge in 2021, but wages are expected to grow just 2.1%.

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