The Midwest economy appears headed for slow growth – if any – in the coming months, according to the Creighton Economic Forecasting Group, which released its latest figures on Tuesday.

The group, led by Creighton University Professor Ernie Goss, surveys purchasing managers at manufacturing companies across nine middle-of-the-country states, from Arkansas to Minnesota and Oklahoma to the Dakotas. It asks about such factors as sales, inventory, delivery lead time and employment.

Then it calculates a business conditions index with a simple premise: On a scale of 0 to 100, anything about 50 indicates growth ahead. That number has been north of 50, month after month, since late 2016.

Not now. On Tuesday, it pegged the nine-state area at 49.3, and Missouri came out only a little better. The state slipped from 51.9 in July to 50.1 in August, and it lost manufacturing jobs last month.

Goss points to struggling farmers and manufacturers and says job growth in the nine-state area has been only half the national rate for the last year. Some of that is because employers struggle to find qualified workers, as they have for years.

Now trade tariffs are hitting, too. The Creighton Group asked purchasing managers what their companies are doing to deal with that. About one-fourth are absorbing the cost, but most are not.

“Sixty percent – six out of 10 – said they were passing it on to their customers,” Goss said. Two-thirds of the purchasing managers said the trade war is hurting their companies.

Goss said he expects business confidence to hinge on trade talks, what the Federal Reserve does with interest rates and whether financial markets begin to signal a recession ahead.

Quick hits

The Temp Stop under construction in Grain Valley is expected to open around November. It’s on Main Street south of Interstate 70 where the old Pilot was. Also going in are two restaurants – one with Mexican food, one with chicken. On Main on the other side of I-70, Taco Bell is opening by Dec. 1. It’s south of the Casey’s. A QuikTrip has been announced across the street. … Black Bear Diner still lists Independence and Olathe as the first places in the metro area where it plans to open, but it has provided no updates so far this year. In late 2018, it said it was coming to Little Blue Parkway, in front of Menards, sometime in the fourth quarter. The company, based in Redding, California, says it was 132 locations mostly in the West. Its restaurant in St. Charles, Mo., is the first in the Midwest.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or He’s on Twitter at @FoxEJC.