Employment gains helped drive the Iowa Leading Indicators Index higher in February for the fifth consecutive month, according to the Iowa Department of Revenue.
The index, designed to forecast the future direction of Iowa's economy, increased to 107.7 from 107.5 in January. Due to rounding, the agency said the index only increased 0.1 percent during the period.
The monthly diffusion index fell to 37.5, with only three of the eight components experiencing positive changes for February. The three positive contributors were average weekly manufacturing hours, diesel fuel consumption and average weekly unemployment claims.
The Iowa non-farm employment index recorded a 0.14 percent rise in February, which extends the streak of employment gains to 41 consecutive months. That would appear to indicate that Iowa employment will continue to grow through the summer months.
The 12-month moving average of claims decreased to 3,187, with unemployment claims 13.3 percent below February 2013 claims. That represented the largest decline since May 2012.
The agricultural futures profits index was a negative contributor to the Iowa Leading Indicators.
Expected profits fell sharply for corn and declined modestly for soybeans. Corn prices are down 33.8 percent and soybean prices are down 7.9 percent compared with last year.
Expected profits rose for cattle as prices increased 13.4 percent over last year, while hog prices rose 8.6 percent compared with last year.A single month change in the Iowa Leading Indicators Index does not produce a clear signal of the future direction of the state's economy, according to the Iowa Department of Revenue. The agency contends that it is necessary to consider the direction of the index over several consecutive months.