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10/2/2003

Rockies’ economy posts fifth straight month of growth

The Associated Press

DENVER — The economy in the Rocky Mountain region dipped slightly in September, but posted its fifth consecutive month of growth as business continued to hire, according to a Creighton University survey released Wednesday.
The overall index for Colorado, Utah and Wyoming was 64.8, down from the August reading of 66.5 that was the highest level for the index since February 1997.
The three-state monthly survey by the Nebraska university relies on data from supply managers and business leaders. An index greater than 50 indicates expansion.
The employment index for September grew for the fourth straight month, at 59.4. The region had lost approximately 8,000 jobs for the first half of 2003, but survey officials said that trend is ending.
“Recent surveys point to an outright reversal of these job losses with gains approaching 1 percent on an annualized and seasonally adjusted basis for the rest of 2003,” Creighton economics professor Ernie Goss said.
Supply managers expect economic conditions to improve in the next six to nine months.
The confidence index for September was 78.7, relatively unchanged from August’s 78.3, but still high. The prices-paid index, which tracks prices paid for raw materials and supplies, declined to 67 from 72.7.
Besides improved hiring, strength in new orders at 74.5, production at 74 and inventories at 52.9 kept the overall index high. And despite economic weakness among U.S. trading partners, new export orders for the region rose to 69 from 60.5 in August.
“We are seeing improving economic conditions among Asian trading partners, especially Japan,” Goss said. “This will have important and positive impacts on the region, particularly Colorado.”
Colorado’s overall economic index was 59, down from August’s 76.3 that was the state’s highest level in more than five years. The employment index also dropped, from 90 to 71.4.