Business Index Down, Midwest Remains Strong

Article excerpt

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Difficulty finding qualified workers and a slowdown in export orders dropped a business conditions index in July, but the Midwest economy remained strong, an economics professor said.

"One of the recurring themes of the 1997 economy in mid-America is the shortage of qualified workers," Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss said Friday. "In fact, we have reports in some states of firms hoarding workers, that is, not trimming their work force when business slows, because they are afraid they will not be able to hire when business picks up.

"This labor shortage," he said, "which is a symptom of a very strong economy, is made worse by a lack of in-migration to the region and threatens to further constrain growth in the months ahead."

The relative strength of the dollar compared with other currencies slowed export orders for the region, Goss said.

Goss' monthly survey of purchasers in nine states -- Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota -- gauges business conditions.

The index ranges between 0 and 100, with numbers greater than 50 indicating an expanding economy, and numbers under 50 forecasting a sluggish economy. …