Economist Ernie Goss.

A monthly survey finds Iowa’s economy is continuing to strengthen along with that of the entire Midwest region, bucking the national downward trend.

Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University, says the Midwest is seeing job growth and solid exports with cooling inflation, making for very favorable conditions.

“This is very surprising,” Goss says. “Our survey of supply managers in nine states, stretching from North Dakota and Minnesota in the north to Oklahoma and Arkansas in the south, the leading economic indicator from that survey for April was up and that’s contrary to almost everything else we’re seeing coming across for the nation.”

Fuel prices have dropped and input costs are projected to only rise about 2% for the rest of the year. Goss says those are two more factors in Iowa’s favor and for the Midwest. “Our number is the bright one out there and a lot of that can be traced to a healthy agricultural sector and housing,” Goss says.

“Construction and housing are not as negative in this part of the country.” The survey also finds employment growth in the Midwest region is accelerating, with some of the best gains since the recession ended.

Goss says it’s in stark contrast to most other regional and national surveys that point to slower growth ahead. Goss says, “You take every state among the nine states, all of them are showing much better growth looking ahead than what we’re seeing coming out of the national economy.”

Both durable and nondurable goods manufacturers in Iowa are adding jobs at a healthy pace, Goss says, while manufacturers tied to agriculture and dependent on sales abroad are experiencing especially strong growth.

He expects Iowa’s unemployment rate to move below 5% for the first time since 2008 by the middle of 2012.