OMAHA, Neb. — Strong economic growth is expected to continue in nine Midwest and Plains states over the next few months as businesses continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new monthly survey of business leaders released Thursday.

The overall index for the region remained at a strong level of 68.9 in March even though it was slightly lower than February's 69.6 reading. Any score above 50 on the survey's indexes suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests recession.

Businesses in the area have recovered roughly half of the 120,000 jobs lost last year when states imposed restrictions related to the coronavirus. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said growth in the area might be even stronger if it weren't for delays in receiving raw materials and supplies.

"The region is adding jobs and economic activity at a healthy pace, and that growth will remain healthy well into the second half of 2021," Goss said.

Business leaders said they are seeing significant inflation particularly in the cost of metal products and lumber at the wholesale level.

But the business leaders are optimistic about the economy. The survey's confidence index increased to 58 in March from February's neutral score of 50.

The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.