For the fifth straight month, the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index, a leading economic indicator for the nine-state region stretching from Minnesota to Arkansas, advanced above growth neutral, and to its highest level since 2004.

The October Business Conditions Index, which ranges between 0 and 100, increased to 70.2 from September’s 65.1.

The regional employment index moved well above growth neutral for October to its highest level in more than two decades, climbing to 66.7 from 61.8 in September.

Looking ahead six months, economic optimism, as captured by the October Business Confidence Index, climbed to a very strong 70.4 from 69.4 for September.

The Kansas Business Conditions Index for October increased to 68.7 from 63.0 in September.

Components of the Index in Kansas include new orders at 76.9, production or sales at 74.1, employment at 66.1, and inventories at 58.0.