The state’s economy continues to improve, according to the latest release from the Mountain States Index.

The three states that make up the region – Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, saw their economy grow for the 29th straight month, and at levels higher than the national index, which has grown more slowly, said the report from the Goss Institute for Economic Research.

Goss said the advantage in the mountain states – tied to expansions in exports, energy and agriculture – will continue in the months ahead.

“Only a significant upturn in oil prices or a catastrophe such as last year’s Japanese tsunami will derail this expansion,” said Ernest Goss, director of the institute. “Thus far, higher gasoline and fuel prices have failed to slow growth in the region. Firms with close ties to agriculture and energy, as well as businesses selling internationally, continue to lead the regional economy. The Federal Reserve’s cheap money policy continues to support firms tied to energy, and those selling in international markets.”

Higher gas prices are affecting consumers, however. Goss said that 83 percent of the supply managers surveyed are adding fuel surcharges to the cost of supplies.

Colorado’s economy is recovering – and it too is adding jobs “at a healthy pace,” Goss said.

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“Both durable and non-durable goods manufacturers in the state are adding jobs at a healthy pace,” he said. “Manufactures tied to energy agriculture and dependent on sales abroad are experiencing especially strong growth.”

And there’s more good news.

“As a result of this solid expansion, I expect the unemployment rate to continue to decline in the months ahead,” he said.

Overall, the state’s employment growth in the region is accelerating – and there are reports of labor shortages for skilled manufacturing workers.

“Over the past year, the region has added almost 86,000 jobs, for annual growth of 2.7 percent.”

And the concerns about higher gas prices have not yet offset business confidence – supply managers are added to their inventories of raw materials and supplies and exports are higher than during the recession.

The instate gets its information using the same data as the Institute for Supply Management. It creates an index by using a mathematical average of new orders, production or sales, employment, inventories and delivery lead times.