OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states are showing more enthusiasm for the state of their local economies than they have since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a new monthly survey of bankers in the region.

The Rural Mainstreet Survey’s overall index surged to 53.2 in October, up from 46.9. in September and well ahead of the 35.5 reading in March, when the index bottomed out as the outbreak began. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy, while a score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, credited recent improvements in agriculture commodity prices, federal farm support, and the Federal Reserve’s record low interest.

“Still, more than one-third, or 35.5%, of bank CEOs reported their local economies were experiencing recessionary economic conditions,” Goss said.

Bankers were also asked this month to identify the industry in their area most harmed by the pandemic. More than eight of 10, named restaurants and bars as experiencing the greatest negative effects from the pandemic.

More bankers showed optimism about the economy’s outlook over the next six months, with the survey’s confidence index rising to 51.6 from September’s 50.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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