Rural Economy Shows Modest Improvement

May 18, 2017

The Rural Mainstreet Index compiled by Creighton University broke a string of 20 straight months of below neutral growth this month. The survey of bank CEOs in a 10-state region is at its highest point in nearly two years.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss
Credit Creighton University

The index is the work of Creighton economist Ernie Goss. He says the overall numbers for states dependent on the agriculture and energy economies are still weak. But they did break the growth neutral mark of 50 with a 50.1 reading. Goss credits an uptick in the farm economy.

“We are seeing a stabilization and some improvement in agricultural commodity prices," he says. "Farm products, year-over-year, have improved.”

Goss says the region also showed strong housing sales in this month’s report. The results for Iowa were a bit behind at 49.4. But that was a big improvement from the April mark of 39.1. Goss saw some positive signs.

“In Iowa, we’re seeing some really good activity in alternative energy, in terms of ethanol," he says. "We’re seeing that in Nebraska, as well. So some of the areas we’re seeing some more promise.”

Goss says Iowa’s farmland-price index slipped in this month’s report. The state showed strong hiring figures.