A survey of business owners and supply managers in Iowa and eight other states finds December was one of the best months for economic activity in nearly two years.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says it’s encouraging to see such a healthy boost after five straight months of seeing figures below growth neutral for the region.

“The overall index moved to its highest level since 2015, that’s very good,” Goss says. “It expands to 53.1 and any number above 50 is growth positive. So, 53.1 from November’s 46.5 and that’s the best since February of 2015, so that’s good.”

The index for Iowa also climbed nearly four points, from around 48 in November to nearly 52 for December.

Prof. Ernie Goss

Following six straight months of job losses, Goss says the new survey shows the nine-state Midwest region added a significant number of jobs during the past month.

“The job number was up to 50.9 and that’s not as strong as I’d like to see but that’s up from November’s 41.9,” Goss says. “That’s a big spike and that’s very good news. It’s the first time we’ve been above 50 on the employment number since May of 2016.”

The region lost some 19,000 manufacturing jobs during the past year, but gained 121,000 non-manufacturing jobs.

Goss says he’s troubled by all the talk from politicians of what he calls “uber-nationalism” as they propose tariffs and other limits on the import of goods from other countries. He says some protectionists want to limit imports while raising exports of American products and it just doesn’t work that way.

“You can’t restrict imports in if you don’t want those countries to restrict your exports to them,” Goss says. “It’s a little crazy talk and that’s among Republicans and Democrats, to be fair, it’s not one party or the other. It seems politics is overruling economics in terms of good sense.”

Goss predicts Iowa’s economy will continue to expand during 2017 with overall job gains of 5,000 for the first half of the year.