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Regional economic indicators suggest rough start to 2023


PITTSBURG, Kan. — Newly released economic reports include some positive signs, but also some less than encouraging indicators at the state and regional levels. 

Omaha, Nebraska-based Creighton University’s Mid-America Business Conditions Index report is published monthly and looks at nine states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. The report for November, released on Thursday, included some ominous signs. 

“For the first time since the end of the 2020 recession in May 2020, Creighton’s monthly survey of manufacturing supply managers is flashing recession warnings for the first half of 2023. Since climbing to a 2022 high in March, the overall index has now fallen six of the past eight months,” said Ernie Goss, PhD, director of Creighton University’s Economic Forecasting Group. 

“One in four supply managers rate higher input prices as the greatest 2023 challenge,” Goss added. 

In Kansas, Creighton’s Business Conditions Index dropped to 48.2 in November from 48.7 in October. In Missouri, meanwhile, the index for November dropped to 47.2 from 54.9 the previous month. Oklahoma and Arkansas also saw more significant drops than Kansas, from 51.3 to 39.8 and from 58.5 to 52.4 respectively. 

The November report also noted that for the first time since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the index registered two straight months of job losses in the nine-state region it covers. The labor market, however, remains tight. 

“Due to labor shortages, approximately 65% of firms reported shortages of job applicants for available jobs,” said Goss. 

The Kansas Department of Labor’s most recent unemployment data, for October, suggests that Southeast Kansas and the state as a whole are in line with trends across the broader region. The KDOL reports that preliminary estimates indicate a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 2.8 percent for October, up from 2.6 percent in September, but a decrease from 2.9 percent in October 2021. 

“The Kansas unemployment rate increased to 2.8% in October,” KDOL Secretary Amber Shultz said in a press release. “Even with this increase, the unemployment rate remains below pre-pandemic levels.” 

In Crawford County, unemployment numbers mirrored the statewide average almost exactly, at 2.8 percent in October, up from 2.7 percent in September. Other Southeast Kansas counties saw greater increases. These included Neosho County, which was up to 3.7 percent from 3.4 percent in September, making it one of only two counties in the state to match or exceed the national unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, and Wilson County, which was also up 0.3 percent from September to 3.1 percent in October.