OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Economic conditions in the middle of the United States improved in October, but companies are still uncertain about the future, according to a monthly survey of business leaders in a nine-state region.
A sharp increase in new orders from manufacturers was credited with spurring some growth in the region's economy last month, said Creighton University professor Ernie Goss, who conducted the survey released Friday.
The survey's monthly business conditions index for October took a surprising upward turn to 53.1 from September's weak 49.4, Goss said. It was the first increase in the index since May.
With an index ranging between 0 and 100, numbers below 50 indicate contraction in manufacturing and numbers greater than 50 indicate expansion.
States included in the survey are Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Employment in the region remained below growth-neutral 50 for the sixth time this year at 46.4, indicating that firms are continuing to rely on current employees and overtime to meet production demands, Goss said.
Supported by a longer work week and rising productivity, October production rose to 57.4, he said. At the same time, the prices-paid index remained almost flat at 59.4 compared to September's at 59.9.
Goss said the lack of inflationary pressures and significant weakness in the labor market will likely lead the Federal Reserve to reduce interest rates at its November meeting next Wednesday.
South Dakota showed the most economic growth in October, followed by Missouri, Nebraska and Minnesota, Goss said. Nebraska business leaders indicated growth in that state for the first time since June.
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