OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy is slowly improving in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but employment remains below the level it was before the coronavirus pandemic began last year.

The overall index for the region increased to 53.8 in February from January’s 52.

Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the number of jobs in the region is down roughly 146,000, or 3.3%, from the level it was at before the pandemic began.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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