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Economist Says More Midwest Industries In Recovery

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economic recovery appears to be gaining strength in nine Midwest and Plains states, with construction being the only industry still lagging, according to a new monthly report released Thursday.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said economic growth is finally reaching beyond agriculture and energy sectors in the region. But rising energy prices and inflation could hurt future growth.

The overall Mid-America index rose last month to 58.4, from 55.9 in January. Any score above 50 suggests growth.

“Any significant increase in energy prices could reduce the growth outlook for the region,” Goss said. “However, at this time, energy prices are not having any significant negative impacts on current and anticipated growth for the region.”

And Goss said inflation is already a concern. The prices-paid index, which tracks raw material costs, soared to 74.7 in February, from January’s 67.8.

The survey of business leaders and supply managers covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The report uses a collection of indexes that range from zero to 100 to assess the economy. Any score above 50 suggests that index will grow in the next few months while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor.

The employment index grew to 57.5 in February, from January’s already healthy reading of 54.5.

Business leaders remain fairly confident about the economy over the next six months. The confidence index declined to a still-strong level of 61 in February, from January’s 67.2.

The February inventory index declined to 54.2, from January’s 55.3.

The export index declined to 55.3 in February, from January’s 60.4. And the import index slipped to 56.6, from January’s 56.7.

“Exports continue to be an important source of growth for the region. Additionally, an expanding regional economy has pushed firms to increase their purchases from abroad,” Goss said.

The other components of the February index were:
— New orders at 58.4, up from 58.1 in January.
— Production or sales at 60.9 February, up from 56.9.
— And deliveries at 56.4, up from January’s 54.7.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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