Since falling to a record low in April of this year, the Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) has increased for six straight months. According to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region, including Illinois, the October index rose to 53.2, its highest level since January, prior to the onset of COVID-19.

The October index for Illinois advanced to 53.4 from 43.6 in September. Compared to the same time last year, Illinois’ Rural Mainstreet economy has lost 7.6% of its nonfarm employment, representing 364,000 jobs.

“Recent improvements in agriculture commodity prices, federal farm support and the Federal Reserve’s record low interest rates have underpinned the Rural Mainstreet Economy. Still, more than one-third, or 35.5%, of bank CEOs reported their local economies were experiencing recessionary economic conditions,” said Ernie Goss, PhD, Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University's Heider College of Business.

For only the third time in the past 82 months, the farmland price index advanced above growth neutral for October to 50.6. The October farm equipment sales index increased to 37.9 from 32.1 in September. This marks the 85th straight month the reading has remained below growth neutral.

Bankers were asked to identify the industry in their area most harmed by the pandemic. About 80% named restaurants/bars as experiencing the greatest negative impacts from COVID-19. Other areas identified by bankers as economically impacted were: 3% identified farmers, 3.4% said medical care, 6.3% identified retailers and 6.7% said hourly workers.