OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Strong growth continues across rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states and three states now have more jobs than they did before the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a monthly survey of bankers released Thursday.
The overall Rural Mainstreet economic index slipped in June to 70 from May's record high of 78.8, but it remained in positive territory. 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, said the number of nonfarm jobs across the region remains 2% below where it was before the pandemic began, but three states — Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska — reported employment levels above where they were before the virus emerged last year.
The hiring index for the region remained high at 71.7 in June even though it was slightly lower than May's 72.7 reading.
Goss said the region continues to benefit from growing exports, strong grain prices and continued low interest rates.
Bankers generally remain optimistic about the economy over the next six months. The confidence index also stayed strong at 71.7 in June although it was down from May's 78.8.
More than three-quarters of the bankers said they think the Federal Reserve should start raising interest rates before the end of this year.
Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.