The economy continues to improve in nine Midwest and Plains states, but business remains slower than before the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a monthly survey of business leaders released Thursday.

The economy continues to improve in nine Midwest and Plains states, but business remains slower than before the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a monthly survey of business leaders released Thursday.

The overall index for the region improved to 65.1 in September from August's already strong 60. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Any score above 50 suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests decline.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said even with the positive growth in the economy, manufacturing output remains well below the level it was at before officials began imposing restrictions because of the coronavirus.

Job growth remains strong in the region, and the employment index improved to 61.8 in September from August’s 54.8. Goss said the region’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6% in September after hitting a high of 11% in May. Before the coronavirus outbreak began, unemployment in region was at 1.3%.

Business leaders are optimistic about the next six months. The confidence index remained high at 69.4 in September even though it declined slightly from August’s 73.3. The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.