OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The economy in nine Midwestern and Plains states should continue growing steadily in the months ahead, according to a monthly survey of business leaders released Tuesday.
The region's overall economic index crept up to 60.6 in June from May's 60.5 to hit another three-year high.
Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said the report offers plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the economy because the job market is strong and businesses report solid new order numbers.
The confidence index for the next six months improved to 63.6 in June from 62.5 in May.
Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth, while a score below that suggests decline. All the scores for the different indexes range from zero to 100.
The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
The employment index rose to its highest level in two years when it hit 61.4 in June. That was up from May's 60 as durable goods manufacturers continued hiring. Goss said strong job growth should continue in the region.
Inflation pressure remained elevated in June, and the survey's prices-paid index increased slightly to 73.5 from May's 73.1.
The inventory index declined to 54 in June from May's 56 but remained in positive territory.
"This is yet another signal that supply managers are upbeat about the economy, as they also increased inventories in anticipation of expanding sales for their companies in the months ahead," Goss said.
The export order index jumped to 60.2 in June from May's 53. And the import order dipped to 53.4 in June from 62.6 in May.
The other components of the overall June index were:
— New orders growing to 67.2 from May's 63.5.
— Production or sales declined to 66 in June from 67.1 the previous month.
— And delivery lead time decreased to 54.4 from May's 55.9.
Creighton University economic reports: http://business.creighton.edu/economicoutlook