By Gene Meyer
TOPEKA, Kan. – Economic expansion in rural areas continued to slow in Kansas and several other Midwestern states during July, regional bankers told a monthly survey.
Creighton University economists’ reading of the Rural Mainstreet Index in Kansas and nine other Midwestern states slipped to 55.7 on a 100-point scale, from 56.0 a month earlier. Kansas conditions slipped to 55.4 on the scale from 55.7 in June.
July is the third consecutive month during which the index values have slipped, said Creighton economist Ernie Goss, chief publisher of the monthly survey of rural community bankers designed in 2005 to help take the economic temperature of small towns and commodity dependent economies in the Midwest.
A dip in job creation in the communities surveyed along slower increases in farmland prices were the biggest contributors to the lowered optimism throughout the region, Goss said. Both those trends dimmed Kansas’ index as well. Farmland is the largest single asset many Midwestern property owners have and any dimming of its luster, along with a shakier job market, ripples through retail sales, home real estate prices, farm machinery sales and other indicators measured on the survey.
“The economy is very unstable and fragile at this time,” Dale Bradley, chief executive of the Citizens State Bank in Miltonvale, Ks. told the survey.
Among the other states surveyed:
• Index values fell slightly, be remained above a growth-neutral 50, in Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. As in Kansas, expectations of a cooling land market and a slowing job market contributed to reduced expectations, Goss said.
• Index values rose in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wyoming, in part because crops and pastures are recovering from late starts caused by bad spring weather.