OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Results from a monthly survey of business supply managers suggest that manufacturing is boosting economic conditions in nine Midwest and Plains states, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index report said the overall economic index for the region rose to 60.5 in February from 54.7 in January. It’s the highest figure since April 2014.

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“This is the fourth consecutive month the index has increased and points to an improving regional manufacturing economy,” said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. “I expect this to generate even healthier growth for both manufacturing and nonmanufacturing through the third quarter of this year.”

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. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Economic optimism, as reflected by the February business confidence index, rose to 71.3 from 69.5 in January.

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“This is the highest confidence reading that we have recorded in six years,” Goss said.

In other measures, the regional new export orders index rose to 63.6 from 48.7 in January, and the import index climbed to 54.1 from January’s 46.7.

The February employment index remained above growth neutral but slipped to 55.6 last month from January’s 57.0.

“The growth gap between regional manufacturing and nonmanufacturing is closing,” Goss said. “However, rural job growth in the nine-state region continues to significantly lag that of urban areas in the region.”

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