Rural economy survey shows growth in manufacturing jobs, except those tied to farm economy

Source: By Cole Epley, Omaha World Herald • Posted: Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Regional manufacturers continued to add jobs in August except for those tied to the farm economy.

Makers of goods like processed foods and metals accelerated hiring across the nine-state region stretching from Arkansas to North Dakota relative to July’s rate, but businesses making products like tractors continued to reel in August.

That’s according to the latest Mid-America Business Conditions Index from Creighton University.

Creighton professor Ernie Goss said overall growth in manufacturing jobs over the last 12 months is still picking up, and given the region’s concentration of such jobs, regional employment growth of 1.4 percent is getting closer in line with national jobs growth of 1.5 percent.

“Both the durable, nondurable and nonmanufacturing sectors are adding jobs at a solid pace. Except for manufacturing tied to agriculture, businesses across the region added jobs at a solid pace for the month,” Goss said.

The index, which measures economic health using a scale of 0 to 100, with any number greater than 50 indicating economic expansion, registered a reading of 57.5 in August, up from 56.1 in July.

Economic optimism for the next 6 months improved on what Goss attributed to “strong profit growth, still-low interest rates and international sales.”

Exports of regional goods to foreign countries will run into a hiccup if those products are to travel through the Port of Houston, however, given the recent hurricane-turned-tropical storm that devastated the area earlier this week.

“For example, exports of commodities such as ethanol, hard red winter wheat, corn and soybean will be slowed by port bottlenecks in the short term,” Goss said.

The monthly survey, which includes Nebraska and Iowa, demonstrated employment growth in both states in August. Nebraska’s overall index moved slightly lower to 57.9 from 58 in July, while Iowa’s increased to 57.7 from 54.9.

Nebraska manufacturers are adding jobs at an annualized rate of about 1.5 percent, compared to non-manufacturing jobs growth of 1.2 percent in the state.