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Survey: Missouri’s business conditions show spike in March

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(The Center Square) – An index measuring business conditions in Missouri increased 7.2 percentage points, or 15%, in March compared to February.

While business conditions in the Midwest continued to show neutral growth ratings in Creighton University’s Mid-America Business Conditions Survey, Missouri climbed to 53.8 on the index in March after posting 46.6 in February. The index uses the same methodology as the national Institute for Supply Management. It ranges between 0 and 100 with 50 representing a growth neutral market.

A nine-state region from Minnesota to Arkansas showed an increase to 49.6 in March after posting 49.1 in February.

“The overall index, much like the U.S. reading, has hovered around growth neutral for the last four months,” said Ernie Goss, director of Creighton University’s Economic Forecasting Group and the Heider College of Business. “Additionally, supply managers remained pessimistic regarding the 2024 outlook with approximately 68% expecting a 2024 economic recession.”

Three of the five components in Missouri’s index rating are above neutral. Delivery lead time was 56.3, inventories scored 64.9 and employment was 52.5. Those below neutral in the state were new orders at 48.8 and production or sales at 46.2.

South Dakota had the highest index at 60.8 in March, up from the region’s high of 56.2 in February. Oklahoma’s March index of 53.3 was third, up from February’s 46.9.

The report noted there were two job openings for every unemployed worker in Missouri, citing statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year, there were 2.5 openings for each unemployed worker and parallel to national data.

The report said the region’s employment fell to 40.9 from February’s 42.9, marking the third consecutive month below 50.

“Despite labor shortages and elevated inflationary pressures, only 13.3% of hiring manufacturers reported boosting entry level wages above the rate of inflation,” Goss said.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center published data on online job postings from Lightcast. The top online job posting in Missouri in March was for registered nurses (5,440), followed by retail salespersons (1,960), sales representatives in wholesale and manufacturing (1,550) and front-line supervisors of retail sales workers (1,390).

The health care and social assistance industry had the most job postings in the state in March with 10,700. Administrative and support and Waste Management and remediation had 8,450 online job postings followed by retail trade (6,250), professional, scientific and technical services (4,270), manufacturing (3,830) and educational services (3,690).

Economic optimism, forecasted by the index, rose from an index of 33.4 in February to 41 in March. The report found 68% of supply managers expect worsening conditions during the next six months.

The index’s wholesale inflation rating increased to 77.3 from 61.9 in February.

“March’s inflation reading is the highest recorded since February 2023,” Goss said. “With the wholesale price index elevated in Creighton’s survey and the U.S., I do not expect a Federal Reserve rate cut until July 30 or 31 of this year.”

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