OMAHA, Neb. — A monthly survey of rural bankers in 10 Plains and Western states suggests an improved economic outlook.

A report released Thursday says the Rural Mainstreet Index rose to its highest reading since May 2014, reaching 54.8 in February. January’s figure was 46.8, and December’s was 47.8.

Survey organizers say any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy in the months ahead.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the solid February figure surprised him, given that only about a quarter of the bankers reported growth in their areas. Nonetheless, the confidence index jumped to 52.4 from 46.7 in January.

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

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