After experiencing robust growth since 2021, the rural economy is slowing down, bankers said in a monthly survey.
In May’s Rural Mainstreet Index, a 10-state survey of community bank presidents and CEOs, the real-time assessment of the rural economy was 57.7, its lowest level since February 2021. The index ranges from 0 to 100 with 50.0 representing growth neutral.
Supply chain disruptions from transportation bottlenecks and labor shortages are constraining growth, said Ernie Goss, the study’s author and Creighton University business school professor.
“Much like the nation, the growth in the Rural Mainstreet economy is slowing,” said Goss. He warned of more economic disruption ahead as “farmers and bankers are bracing for escalating interest rates—both long-term and short-term.”
The confidence index, which reflects bank CEOs’ expectations for the economy six months out, remained in negative territory at 40.4, up slightly from last month’s 39.1. Those are the lowest back-to-back readings since April and May of 2020.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, along with accompanying global trade tensions and surging inflation, constrained the business confidence index,” said Goss.
Bankers were asked in the May survey whether farm income this year will be higher than last year. About 40% said it would be higher and about 26% said it would be lower.
Farmers had to borrow more to cover higher costs of supplies and fertilizer. This month, the loan volume index hit a two-year high of 73.0, a big jump from April’s 51.9.
The new hiring index dipped to 61.5 in May from April’s 64.0. “Labor shortages continue to be a significant issue constraining growth for Rural Mainstreet businesses,” Goss said.