Ernie Goss

After a less-than-stellar holiday season, a survey finds Iowa’s economy rebounded in a big way during January.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the monthly survey of business leaders in Iowa and eight other Midwestern states is pointing to growth over the next three to six months.

In particular, Goss says Iowa manufacturers are expanding at the strongest pace in the region. “Our survey of supply managers for the month of January was very good,” Goss says.

“(We’re) seeing some good strong numbers, biggest one-month jump that we’ve recorded since October of 2009. The leading economic indicator from the January survey was very strong.”

About one in five supply managers surveyed said farm income growth is contributing to their companies’ expansion. While the December numbers are often the best of the year, Goss says the December 2011 figures were tepid, much lower than expected.

“It looks now, in retrospect, like what happened in December was really just a supply disruption, a hiccup, as you might say,” Goss says. “That supply disruption from Thailand because of the flooding is what brought the overall number down for December.”

For the first time since July, the employment index climbed into positive territory. Surveys over the past several months indicated job growth in the region had slowed significantly, but he says January’s reading is clearly good news on the employment front.

“We’re likely to see continuing employment growth,” Goss says. “In fact, the employment number was very good for the month. It’s still going to take us another 18 months to two years to get back to pre-recession levels for the entire region.”

As Iowa companies expand, both durable and nondurable goods manufacturers reported strong business conditions for the month. He says Iowa firms linked to agriculture and international markets continue to experience very healthy growth.