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Utah economy on a roll

Business index indicates healthy growth into final quarter of year

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Utah's economy will continue its healthy rate of growth well into the final quarter of the year, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Mountain States Business Conditions Index spiked to 75 in July, up from June's 65.4. The report, prepared by Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., is based on a monthly survey of local supply managers and business leaders in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.

Utah's reading rose sharply to 80.6 from 68.3 in June and 61.6 in May, and set the pace for the three-state region. Colorado's index was 72.5 in July, up from 64.1 in June, while Wyoming's reading increased to 71.7 from June's 63.3.

The index ranges from zero to 100, with a figure over 50 indicating an expansionary economy over the next three to six months. It uses the same methodology as a national survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management, a private research group that surveys purchasing and supply executives in more than 350 industrial companies nationwide.

"Supply managers and business leaders in the region noted that fuel prices are causing a drag on the economy, with many reporting added fuel charges for supplies and raw material deliveries," the Creighton report stated. "Higher fuel prices aren't the only problem. A significant share of the regional firms reported shipping delays as the expanding economy caused more and more supply bottlenecks."

Ernie Goss, economics professor at Creighton, said he expects slower jobs growth in the latter part of 2006, as higher interest rates take their toll.

Even so, Goss wrote in the report, "the region will experience job growth significantly above the national average for the remainder of the year." He pointed to the residential and non-residential construction sectors in particular as areas that will see continued growth.

The ISM's nationwide report, also released Tuesday, registered 54.7 in July, above the 53.8 reading reported in June.

"When you view the overall economy, manufacturing is holding up quite well," said ISM survey committee chairman Norbert J. Ore.

"Growth is slowing, but the rate of decline is not very rapid," Ore added, noting the average index for the first half of the year is 55.3, and July's 54.7 reading is only slightly below that. "I certainly feel pretty good about the third quarter at this point, and momentum carrying into fourth quarter."

Contributing: Associated Press

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com