For the first time since April of this year, the monthly Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index surveying bank CEOs in rural areas dependent on agriculture and/or energy has dropped.
The overall index for November sank below growth neutral to 46.8 from October’s 53.2, and is the lowest since August.
Economist Ernie Goss says recent improvements in agriculture commodity prices, federal farm support payments, and Federal Reserve’s record low interest rates have underpinned the rural economy. Only 6.5% of bankers reported economic improvements from October, while 12.9% detailed economic pullbacks for the month, and they expect holiday sales to decline by just over 3%.
For Nebraska, the index dropped to 45.1 from 58.6 in October despite a strong new-hiring figure, and Wyoming’s rating plummeted to 41.2 in November from 52.6 due in part to a loss of 12,000 jobs compared to the same time last year. The November RMI for Iowa sank to 47.4 from October’s 52.3, also due in part to the loss of 6.4% of its non-farm employment compared to Nov. 2019.