OMAHA, Neb.—The economy continued to expand in nine Midwestern and Plains states last month but was hampered by shortages of skilled workers, according to monthly survey results released Monday.
The Mid-America Business Conditions Index dropped to 54.1 in November from 54.9 in October, the report said. The September reading was 57.5.
"The regional economy continues to expand at a healthy pace," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey of supply managers. "However, as in recent months, shortages of skilled workers remain an impediment to even stronger growth. Furthermore, supply managers are reporting mounting negative impacts from tariffs and trade skirmishes," he said.
The November employment index climbed to 57.5, from 52.2 in October.
Overall manufacturing employment growth in the region over the past 12 months has been very healthy, at 2.5 percent compared with the national average of 2.3 percent, Goss said.
"I expect this gap to close in the months ahead as regional job growth slows faster than national manufacturing job growth," he said.
The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Economic optimism remained on the plus side last month, at 55.5, but was lower than the 59.6 in October.
"Almost one-third, or 30 percent, of supply managers expect business profits to improve in 2019," Goss said.
The regional new export orders index rose slightly, to 51.8 from October's 51.5, and the import index climbed to 54.3, from 48.7 in October. Healthy regional growth boosted imports for the month despite higher tariffs on imported goods, the report said.
More than 65 percent of the supply managers who responded to the survey indicated that rising tariffs had made it more difficult or expensive to purchase from abroad, Goss said.
The survey was completed before word came of an agreement reached Saturday between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping for the U.S. to hold off for 90 days raising tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. It buys the two countries more time for their talks aimed at settling their trade differences.