Business conditions index advances

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The December Business Conditions survey of supply managers and business leaders in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah showed the overall Business Conditions Index advanced to a healthy 61.2 from November’s 56.6.

“Since August 2003, the region has been growing at more than twice the rate of the national economy, said Ernie Goss, an economic professor at Creighton University. “During this same period, the price of oil has more than tripled. Thus, much of the region’s superior growth can be traced to the large mining and natural resources industry. With oil prices unlikely to retreat in the months ahead, I expect the Mountain States economy to expand at a solid but somewhat slower pace for the first quarter of 2008.”

The employment index for the region rose to a robust 66.7 from November’s 59.1 and October’s 60.6. “With the exception of food processing and industries with close ties to housing, hiring was strong in the region,” Goss said.

Even as the regional economy expanded, the prices-paid index, which tracks the cost of raw materials and supplies, tumbled to a still elevated 75.

Looking ahead six months, supply managers’ economic optimism plummeted to a record low 37.5, from 40.9 in November.