Ohio Business Owners Remain Optimistic – PNC Survey

PITTSBURGH — Small- and mid-sized business owners in Ohio remain highly optimistic for their own businesses and the U.S. economy. Although optimism has moderated from the historic highs in spring in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 elections, a semi-annual phone survey conducted for PNC finds.

The results of the survey, released today, found that 59% of Ohio business owners asked anticipate increases in sales during the next six months, down slightly from spring. 54% expect profit increases, up from the 49% a year ago, and exceeding the post-election high of 50% in the spring. Ohio remains slightly more optimistic about the economy compared to the national results with 54% of business owners nationally expecting increase in sales and 51% expecting profit increase.

Hiring expectations are lower from six months ago in Ohio with only 20% expecting to increase the number of full-time employees, down from 28%. Nationally, 25% expect hiring to increase.

Ohio’s economy continues to grow at roughly the same pace as in 2016, according to PNC economist Mekael Teshome. Demand for steel has stabilized, providing relief to much of the state, while healthcare, finance and education will support economic growth. The region still faces some challenges, low living and business costs and availability of underutilized assets are important to attracting new industries.

Artemis Strategy Group conducted the survey between July 6 and Sept. 6, completing 500 telephone interviews nationally, 150 of them in Ohio.

Of those in Ohio who responded:

  • Owners who described their outlook for the U.S. economy as strongly optimistic dropped to 27% from 45% in the spring. Those with a moderately optimistic outlook rose to 59% from 47%. Just 13% of business owners and leaders expressed pessimism.

  • More than four in 10, or 45%, expressed hope about the business climate, with another 32% feeling enthusiastic. Ten percent expressed fear, while the number feeling despair or anger remains in the single digits.

  • 37 percent expect major policy changes from the new administration and Congress within the next six months that will affect their business, while 40% say none are expected and 22% are unsure.

  • Nearly four in 10, or 37%, expect any policies from the new administration and Congress to have a positive impact on their business during the next year. 10 percent anticipate a negative impact, similar to 11% in spring, while 42% are unsure and 11% anticipate no effect.

  • Three in 10, or 31%, said it’s harder to hire qualified employees than it was six months to a year ago. 35 percent said top challenges in hiring were inadequate skills and experience, 14% said overall lack of applicants, 12% said candidates requiring higher compensation than the business owner can afford and 9% cited issues with candidates’ abilities to pass required controlled substance screening.

  • Employers who anticipate increasing employee compensation continues to be relatively high, with 25% expecting to increase, down from 32% in the spring and similar to 23% a year ago. Among the majority, 68%, who do not anticipate increasing pay, believe the compensation they provide is sufficient – 40% assert that their current compensation level isn’t affecting hiring or retention.

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