OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The economy in nine Midwest and Plains states should continue growing steadily in the next few months, according to a monthly survey of business leaders released Monday.
The overall economic index for the region declined slightly to 56.2 in May from April's 56.8, but any score above 50 suggests growth.
Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said the stronger dollar is hurting prices for farm and energy products, but that has only slowed the growth in those businesses.
The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
The survey of business leaders and supply managers uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below that suggests decline.
The employment index remained at a healthy 59.3 in May — slightly lower than April's 60.7.
"As a result of an improving job market, supply managers have increased their pay outlook with an anticipated annual wage growth of 2 percent. This is up from 1.5 percent recorded earlier this year," Goss said.
The prices-paid index slipped to 61.2 in May from April's 62.6. Goss said that suggests a slight decline in inflationary pressure on businesses.
Business leaders remain optimistic, but the confidence index declined slightly to 59.4 in May from April's 59.9.
"The upturn in construction and durable goods manufacturing is keeping economic confidence in a solid range," Goss said.
The federal budget cuts that took effect March 1 don't appear to be having much impact on business in the region. Goss said that three-quarters of the supply managers said the budget cuts hadn't had an impact on their businesses.
The May inventory index grew to 56.2 from April's 50.6.
The export order index also increased to 55.9 in May from April's 54.5. The import index declined to 53.5 in May from April's 58.4.
The other components of the overall index in May were:
— New orders falling to 54.8 in May from 61.3 in April.
— Production or sales at 57.3 in May, down from April's 63.2.
— And delivery lead time increased to 53.6 in May from April's 48.5.