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1/4/2004

Mad cow fears could hurt economy

The Associated Press

DENVER — Fears over mad cow disease could end up costing Colorado, Utah and Wyoming more than 5,700 jobs next year, according to a regional economic survey released Friday.

The business conditions index for the three-state region finished the year at 61.3, up from 60.2 in November and its seventh consecutive month of growth, according to Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss.

The monthly survey by the Omaha, Neb.-based university relies on data from supply managers and business leaders in the three states. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

Most of the latest survey was completed before mad cow disease was found in a Washington state dairy cow, Goss said. He said the resulting Asian ban on U.S. beef products will hurt the region.

Unless the embargo is lifted or white meat exports increase, Colorado will lose 4,400 jobs, Utah 1,200 jobs and Wyoming 170 jobs, Goss said.

The report also found an employment reading of 50, suggesting no change in employment for the month. Other components, however, indicated growth: the confidence index, which tracks the economic outlook six to nine months away, rose to 73.8 while new orders were 71.1, production was 69 and inventories were 52.4.

The overall indices for each state were:

•Colorado: 66.1, up from 59.3 in November and the ninth consecutive month of economic growth. Among components of the overall index, the index was 68.8 for new orders, 81.3 for production and 62.5 for inventories and employment. Goss said Colorado has lost more than 90,000 jobs, or more than 4 percent of its labor force, since the beginning of the national recession — a blow blamed largely on the state‚Äôs heavy dependence on the high tech and travel industries.

•Utah: The overall index fell to 56.4 from 59.7 in November. Strong new orders at 64.3, production at 50, inventories at 56.3 and employment at 56 all contributed to the overall index. Non-durable goods makers reported job gains, while durable goods manufacturers have reduced jobs despite higher sales, Goss said.

•Wyoming: The overall index declined slightly to 62.1 from 63.8 in November. Non-durable goods manufacturers reported solid improvement in economic conditions, while durable goods manufacturers indicated little change.