Two reports released this week by Nebraska-based economists continued to diverge on predicting the health of the state's economy.

The latest leading economic indicator report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was negative for the second-straight month, suggesting growth will lag in the coming months.

The indicator, a composite of economic factors that predict economic growth six months into the future, fell by 0.5 percent in December.

“Taken together with the decline in November, the December drop suggests that economic growth will be weak in Nebraska during the second quarter of 2017,” economist Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at UNL, said in a news release.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance and the value of the U.S. dollar both rose sharply during December, potentially negative signs for the Nebraska economy.

“A rising dollar is a drag on Nebraska’s export-oriented businesses, such as agriculture and manufacturing,” Thompson said. “The sharp increase in initial claims for unemployment insurance suggests a softening of the labor market.”

However, three components of the indicator also rose during December. There was an increase in manufacturing hours, building permits for single-family homes and business expectations. In particular, respondents to the December Survey of Nebraska Business reported plans to increase both sales and employment over the next six months.

On the other hand, the Rural Mainstreet Index produced by Creighton economist Ernie Goss, suggested things are continuing to improve in the state.

Nebraska's Rural Mainstreet Index for January expanded to 52.6 from December’s 51.4. That was much higher than the overall score of 42.8 for the 10 states in the index, which was virtually flat from the score of 42.9 in December.

Rural Nebraska also saw a 0.7 percent gain in job growth in January over the past 12 months, compared with no gain in December.

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