Rural economy continues to sit below growth level

Farm equipment sales are still down according to a new index.
Farm equipment sales are still down according to a new index.
A recently-released index shows that sales of farm equipment rose a bit in December, though the overall rural economy in 11 states remains below a level of growth.

According to Creighton University's Rural Mainstreet Index, the level of sales for farm equipment increased from 39.9 in November to 40.4 in December. Anything above a level of 50 on the index's scale of zero to 100 indicates growth.

Regarding the overall economy, the index increased from 38.4 to 40.9 in December, which marks the fourth-straight increase. However, Ernie Goss, an economist at the university who developed the index, said that it has remained below a level of neutral growth for 22 months.

"The decline in farm income related to pullbacks in agricultural commodities from last year continues to weigh on the rural, agriculturally-dependent economy," Gross said.

The index also showed that job growth continued to be below the neutral level in December. The new-hiring index fell from 36.3 in November to 33.4.

Meanwhile, the nation as a whole continues to struggle with unemployment. The most recent statistics from the government have the unemployment rate at 10 percent, with many experts predicting it will remain at that level for much of 2010.