Mid-America economy continues to grow; North Dakota economy rebounds

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The economy in the nine-state Midwest and Plains region grew in April for a third straight month, according to a monthly survey.

The overall index in Creighton University’s Mid-America Business Conditions survey in April climbed to 54.8 from 50.8 in March. Any score above 50 on the survey’s indexes suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests recession. The index started the year at 47 in January.

“After flashing recession warning signals between November 2022 and January 2023, Creighton’s monthly survey of manufacturing supply managers is now pointing to positive but slow growth with cooling inflationary pressures at the wholesale level,” said Creighton economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. 

“While it’s too early to tell if the Federal Reserve is achieving its ‘soft landing,’ results from Creighton’s surveys over the last several months are somewhat promising on the growth and inflation fronts,” he said. “However, the inflation reading, while moderating, serves as a negative signal for financial markets and the Federal Reserve’s interest rate outlook.”

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The survey was released on May 1. The Fed on May 3 raised its key interest rate by a quarter-point to the highest level in 16 years. But the Fed also signaled that it may now pause its streak of 10 rate hikes, which have made borrowing for consumers and businesses steadily more expensive, The Associated Press reported.

Goss in his monthly report predicted the most recent rate hike, “due to recent downturns in recorded inflationary pressures.”

The survey’s wholesale inflation gauge for April declined to a still-inflationary 67.4 from March’s 77.1 and February’s 80.6.

The survey’s business confidence index, which looks ahead six months, slumped to a “very weak” 31.9 from 34.8 in March and 38.1 in February.

“Approximately 45.4% of supply managers expect economic growth to decline in the next six months,” Goss said.

North Dakota’s overall business conditions index climbed back above growth neutral at 56.9, up from 44.8 in March. Components were: new orders at 59.5, production or sales at 61.5, delivery lead time at 47.0, employment at 57.6 and inventories at 58.9.

Survey data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The full report is at https://www.creighton.edu/economicoutlook/midamericaneconomy.

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