Ernie Goss

Iowa’s economy continues to chug along and show modest signs of improvement, according to a monthly study.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the leading economic indicator for Iowa has been above growth neutral for 21 straight months, meaning the economy is growing, not shrinking.

Businesses in nine Midwestern states are part of the survey and Goss says the region overall saw a slight boost in September after three straight months of declines. “The index for September was just not good although it’s still above growth neutral but it’s just pitiful, the economy is limping along,” Goss says.

“I would say, compared to the rest of the U.S., we’re quite strong. This is an agricultural-dependant area and farming has been doing quite well.” Food producers in Iowa have been an important component in the recent job growth across the state, according to Goss. He says surveys over the past several months point to solid growth in Iowa for the rest of 2011, but he’s not as confident for the Midwest overall, based on the September numbers.

“It could’ve been worse but it’s been a lot better in the previous months and it’s certainly trending downward,” Goss says. “There’s little doubt that this economy is slowing and our survey indicates that growth is going to slow even more in the months ahead, but it is still positive, so that’s the good thing.” While the national unemployment rate is at 9.1%, he says most states in the Midwest are in much better shape.

Iowa is reporting a jobless rate of around 6.1%. The survey found Iowa has added more than 5,000 manufacturing jobs in the past year, but Goss says the region overall is seeing minimal job losses.

“Any job loss in this economy is not good, of course, but we’re seeing job losses and that’s probably going to continue,” Goss says. “I’ll call it a flat line in terms of jobs, even as the economy grows a bit.” He says supply managers in the region were asked about their hiring forecast for the next six months and 29% predicted layoffs were coming.

Back in December, he says that number was only at 7%.