OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economy in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states appears to be on record pace, according to a monthly survey of bankers released Thursday that saw individual indicators soar and the overall index rocket to its highest reading since the survey began in 2006.
The overall index of the Rural Mainstreet Survey shot up more than 18 points to 71.9 in March from February’s 53.8. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy, while a score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy.
Nearly 70% bank CEOs reported their local economies were expanding, while about 31% indicated little or no growth, said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey.
“Sharp gains in grain prices, federal farm support, and the Federal Reserve’s record-low interest rates have underpinned the Rural Mainstreet Economy," Goss said.
Components of the survey also saw drastic jumps, with the hiring index soaring to 72.9 from 51.9 in February and the farmland price index climbing from 60.0 last month to 71.9 in March — its highest level since November 2012. For the first time in six months, bankers reported an expansion in loan volumes, with that index increasing to 60.9 from February’s 46.1.
Bankers' economic optimism looking ahead six months also grew. The survey’s confidence index leapt to 76.7 from February's 64.0.
Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.