Minnesota and Midwest manufacturers continue to enjoy a strong uptick in business this year.
The manufacturers reported to Creighton University an increase in exports, employment and inventories in February.
Despite rising raw-material prices, the Mid-America Business Conditions Index rose for a 15th consecutive month to 59.7, up from 57.3 in January. Any figure above 50 indicates growth.
In Minnesota, the index rose to 57.6 from January’s 55.8. Producers across the state reported strong orders for new products, solid production sales and employment. Inventories and delivery lead times, however, showed very small gains.
Ernie Goss, report author and director of Creighton’s Economic Forecasting Group, said both nondurable and durable-goods companies in Minnesota continue to grow at a steady pace.
However, Minnesota is starting to see wage pressure, he said. Average hourly earnings for Minnesota private-sector workers increased by 3.2 percent over the past year.
The growth in the manufacturing index follows positive earnings reports from such big Minnesota manufacturers as 3M, Graco, Polaris Industries and Ecolab.
The continued momentum signals potentially “positive growth for the region over the next three to six months,” Goss said. “The durable, nondurable and nonmanufacturing sectors in the region are experiencing very healthy growth in business activity.”
Busy activity in Midwest factories was replicated nationwide. In a separate report Thursday, the Institute for Supply Management reported that the U.S. manufacturing index rose to 60.8 in February from 59.1 the month before.
Nationwide, new orders, increased factory hiring and improved deliveries drove results, despite surveys that showed that inventory levels remain too low.
The ISM reported 15 of 18 manufacturing industries grew during February, led by printing, primary metals and computer and electronic products.