Manufacturing is off to a strong start in 2021 in a nine-state region that includes Oklahoma.
Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the Mid-America Business Conditions Index continues to outpace U.S. growth.
"This month, it was a healthy — a very healthy — 67.3, and that’s up from December’s pretty strong 64.1. So, it was a very good reading. We’re still down from pre-COVID levels, but boy, we’re moving in the right direction," Goss said.
Numbers above 50 on the 0 to 100 scale indicate economic growth, and the regional index has now been in growth territory for eight straight months after falling to its lowest level in 11 years in April.
Oklahoma’s overall index in January was 65.4, up 9.5 points from December. But that was better than just three other states in the region: Kansas, Missouri, and South Dakota.
Depsite strong signs of growth, there are still lingering problems from the COVID-19 pandemic to contend with.
"Three of four [supply managers] … named worker absences as their No. 1 problem that their company has encountered. Six of 10 identified vendor business stoppage. Now, that’s a real problem, of course, when you have a stoppage of supplies into your company," Goss said.
Goss expects as vaccines become more available, COVID-related issues will become less of a problem.
Oklahoma’s manufacturing employment is up just 900 jobs, or 0.7%, from a September low point. Goss expects, however, that growth rate will improve in the months ahead.