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Bankers survey for parts of 10 states hits new record high

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economy in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states is booming and would be soaring even higher if not for a regionwide labor shortage, according to a monthly survey of bankers released Thursday that hit a new record high just two months after setting the previous record.

The overall index of the Rural Mainstreet Survey for May reached 78.8 — nearly 7 points higher than the previous record of 71.9 set in March and 10 points above April’s 69.0.

Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy, while a score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy.

Strong grain prices, the Federal Reserve’s record-low interest rates and growing exports have underpinned the regional economy’s growth, said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the monthly survey.

But the survey shows the booming rural economy is being restrained by labor shortages, he added. Nearly 9 of 10 bank CEOs surveyed said that difficulty hiring at their banks and businesses in their areas was holding back growth. Despite that, the survey’s new hiring index climbed to 72.7 from 62.5 in April, based mostly on hiring the farm sector.

Bankers’ optimism grew with the economy. The survey’s confidence index came in at 78.8 from April’s 72.4.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.