Ernie Goss

Ernie Goss

A survey of business managers in Iowa and eight other states shows the economic picture improving, gradually, in both the Hawkeye State and the Midwest region.

Creighton University Economics Professor Ernie Goss says while the situation is getting better, the advances are very slow.

“The overall index for the month was up again, for the second consecutive month, but it’s up at 50.6 from 50.5,” Goss says. “We’re just ever so slightly above 50. It wasn’t a good report but it was better than the previous months.” The scale goes from 0 to 100 with a score of 50 being growth neutral.

In the past year, Goss says the state has lost 1,700 manufacturing jobs. Recent surveys show Iowa’s manufacturing sector is gaining jobs, but at a snail’s pace.

“All in all, it was a pretty good report but the jobs index, unfortunately, was not good,” Goss says. “We’re still shedding jobs in manufacturing, particularly anything to do with energy, as you well know that.”

That energy sector includes ethanol production, an industry where Iowa is the nation’s top producer. Due to the prolonged low gasoline prices, managers of some ethanol plants are trimming back on production and personnel. As colleges across the region will soon be sending a new crop of graduates into the working world, Goss says one part of the survey focused specifically on pay for recent grads.

“We asked about salaries for a new worker with a bachelor’s degree and it came in at $47,800,” Goss says. “That may not sound like a lot for a person fresh out of college but it’s up 5 percent from this time last year when we asked the same question.” In the past year, the region’s manufacturing sector has lost nearly 2 percent or roughly 23,000 manufacturing jobs.

Goss projects the broader economy to continue to add jobs but at a slow pace.