Business conditions measure falls, still indicates expansion

Creighton University’s regional Mid-America Business Conditions Index fell five points to 60.2 in November, but it still indicates a healthy economic outlook over the next three to six months.

 The BCI had declined to a record low in April of 2020, but has since remained above growth-neutral for 18 of the last 19 months. The monthly study covers nine states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. BCI ranges from 0-100. A reading of 50 indicates neutral expectations. 

November’s Business Confidence Index increased to 46.2 from October’s 37, which had been its lowest since the onset of Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2020. “Creighton’s monthly survey results indicate the region is adding manufacturing activity at a positive pace, and that regional growth will remain solid,” said Ernie Goss, director of Creighton University’s Economic Forecasting Group and the Jack A. MacAllister chair in regional economics at the Heider College of Business. “In terms of supply chain disruptions and bottlenecks, approximately one-half of supply managers expect delays to worsen with only one in four anticipating improvements.” 

The wholesale inflation gauge declined to a still-high 93 from October’s 96.5. Commodity prices have risen 22.6 percent over the last 12 months, with fuel increasing 57.5 percent, farm products 18.5 percent and metal products soaring 45.5 percent. “Creighton’s monthly survey is tracking the highest and most consistent inflationary pressures in more than a quarter of a century of conducting the survey,” Goss said. 

Approximately one-half of supply managers said supply chain disruptions would worsen in the first six months of next year. Firms said transportation issues — trucking, air and rail delays — were the main factors in those disruptions. Firms also reported transportation bottlenecks in trucking, and rail were the main factors in supply chain disruptions. Supply managers said the ongoing worker shortage is the second most important factor producing bottlenecks and delays, and supply disruptions. 

  • The regional employment index remained above growth-neutral for November, but dropped to 61.1 from 66.1 in October. “Despite healthy growth over the past year, compared to its pre-pandemic level, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics manufacturing employment data indicate that the region has lost 20,000 jobs, or 1.4 percent,” Goss said.
  • The regional inventory index, reflecting levels of supplies and raw materials, fell to 52 from 64.4 in October. 
  • The export orders index increased to 56.7 from October’s 53.3, and port delays dropped to 50.1 from nearly 58 in October.