28th Annual Economic Survey Shows Boost in Employer Optimism, While Workforce Needs, Healthcare and Taxes Continue to Burden Employers

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The PA Chamber unveiled the results of its 28th Annual Economic Survey last week, which showed record high optimism among employers in terms of their confidence with the direction of Pennsylvania’s economy and their willingness to invest in their facilities and workers.  However, a jobs skills gap was listed for the first time as the biggest hurdle facing their businesses.  Also, ongoing concerns about the state’s tax structure and rising healthcare costs were among the leading issues they cited as barriers to economic opportunity.

According to the survey of 650 employers, job creators listed difficulties finding skilled and qualified employees to fill open positions as the biggest problem facing their companies.  This represents a stark increase over last year and has officially reached an historic high as business owners’ “top of mind” issue.  Given this rising concern and the increased attention to this problem, the PA Chamber is proud to include as part of its mission the “Start the Conversation HERE” initiative that is aimed at closing the skills gap in Pennsylvania by educating students, their families, educators and workers about family-sustaining jobs in the skilled trades and other employment trends in the Commonwealth. Visit StartTheConversationHere.com to learn more about this dynamic program and the PA Chamber’s ongoing efforts to tackle the skills gap in Pennsylvania.

As to other leading employer concerns in the survey, the PA Chamber remains committed to working with lawmakers to reduce tax burdens and address rising healthcare costs, which continue to increase despite efforts from the Trump administration to expand healthcare access. “We’re working to combat rising healthcare costs, which employers have cited as a major hurdle over the last ten years of economic surveys,” PA Chamber President Gene Barr said in a press release announcing the survey results. “Expanding access to affordable healthcare coverage should be a universal goal, which is why it’s so unfortunate that the state Insurance Department is resisting allowing many small businesses to take advantage of the new federal rule on Association Health Plans.  The goal of these plans is to achieve savings within the health care system and provide Pennsylvania employers with solutions to meet the needs of their workforce.”

Standing out as a positive takeaway from this year’s survey was the considerable improvement in employers’ perception of Pennsylvania’s business climate.  A record high 40 percent of employers now say the economy has gotten better during the last 12 months, up sharply from 25 percent last year.  Moreover, 26 percent of employers rate Pennsylvania as “very” business friendly, up from 15 percent last year and also a record high.  However, when asked to cite the top issues that should top business advocates and lawmakers’ “to-do” lists, they overwhelmingly cited controlling healthcare costs (at 66 percent) and cutting business taxes (at 50 percent) as the top two priorities.

The 28th Annual Economic Survey was conducted in August 2018 by Susquehanna Polling and Research, a Harrisburg-based public opinion polling company. To review the survey, visit the PA Chamber’s website.