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Creighton University’s Rural Mainstreet Economy index fell in February, as jobs continued to be lost in the 11-state region of the Midwest and Great Plains. The index of various economic indicators based on interviews with rural bankers has been negative for 12th consecutive months. Equipment sales were slow. Land prices were level or dropping. The bank CEOs interviewed by the Creighton economists all expressed declining confidence in the economy.
“Hiring in the area has been anemic since the beginning of 2008 and weakened almost every month for 2008 with the negative trend continuing for 2009,” the report said. Unemployment is lower in the Midwest and Great Plains than in the rest of the country — see the Yonder story on this page — and almost all the bankers reported unemployment rates below 7 percent.
Bank conditions on the rural Main Street are strong, according to the survey, a trend that runs counter to the turmoil of the national financial system. The Main Street bankers reported increases in checking accounts and steady loan volumes. Six out of ten of these community bankers said the supported executive pay limitations for those companies that accept federal bailout money.