OMAHA, Neb. A survey of supply managers in nine Midwestern and Plains states released Monday reflected a slight dip in business conditions in April after rising in the three previous months, but it still points to modest economic growth.

The Mid-American Business Conditions Index declined to 50.1 in April from 50.6 in March, the report said. The figure was 50.5 in February and 48.3 in January. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth. A score below that suggests decline.

"A somewhat weaker U.S. dollar, making U.S. goods more competitively priced abroad, contributed to stabilizing business conditions across the region," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. "At the same time continuing weakness in the region's agriculture and energy sectors remains an obstacle to improving overall growth."

The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Looking ahead six months, economic optimism, as reflected by the business confidence index, slipped to 51.3, from 51.4 in March.

The regional employment gauge remained below growth neutral, dropping in April to 45.0, from 45.9 in March. Over the past year, the region's manufacturing sector has lost about 1.9 percent, or roughly 26,000, manufacturing jobs.

"The losses in manufacturing have spilled over into the broader regional economy and reduced overall annualized regional employment growth from 1.5 percent to 0.7 percent over the past year." Goss said. "I expect the broader economy to continue to add jobs but at an even slower pace."

The index for new export orders jumped in April to 57.6, from 50.0 in March. And the import index rose to 58.0, from March's 55.4.

"Recent weakness in the U.S. dollar, making U.S. goods more competitively priced abroad, sent the export reading much higher for the month," Goss said. "At the same time, growth in regional manufacturing, though slight, pushed supply managers to increase buying from abroad."