PA Chamber’s 29th Economic Survey: While Employers Feel Confident About the Economy, Concerns Over Skills Gap Remain

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

For the past 29 years, the PA Chamber has commissioned a statewide survey of employers to gage their thoughts on the economy, the direction the state is headed and to also learn more about what issues are impacting them the most. The survey helps us to keep our pulse on the concerns and needs of the state’s broad-based business community so that we can better advocate on their behalf in the halls of the state Capitol. This year’s Economic Survey – which was conducted in August 2019 by Susquehanna Polling and Research and was completed in partnership with The Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship at Saint Joseph’s University – found that employers are feeling confident and positive about the state of the economy, with many expecting to increase sales and grow their business over the coming months. Yet, despite this positive news, there remains a very real concern among the Commonwealth’s job creators with the status of the state’s workforce; with employers overwhelming stating that the jobs skills gap was the biggest challenge facing their business.

According to the survey of 650 employers, job creators listed difficulties finding skilled and qualified employees to fill open positions as the biggest problems facing their companies. This represents the second year in a row that workforce has been employers “top of mind” issue. Only a combined 43 percent rated the quality of the state’s workforce as either “excellent” or “good” – the second lowest ranking on record – with 20 percent rating it as “poor,” – a new high in this category.

It was based on the feedback from its members that the PA Chamber launched its aggressive workforce initiative in 2016 – Start the Conversation Here – designed to help address the skills gap that continues to plague businesses throughout the state. As I’ve previously noted in this column, the workforce issue is one that stretches across all industry sectors in every region of the state. It’s one that many of our local chamber partners have said they are dealing with in their communities. And it’s one that we’re proud to be working with a broad coalition of organizations, local chambers and lawmakers to address.

Employers also once again cited concerns with the state’s tax structure. Nearly 55 percent of respondents listed lowering business taxes as one of the top issues they want legislators to focus on in Harrisburg. That’s why the PA Chamber is urging state elected officials to follow the lead of the federal government and make much needed changes on the state level. To that end, we are advocating for a reduction in the state’s Corporate Net Income Tax – which remains one of the highest in the nation – as well as for reforms to that would streamline and simplify the state’s Tax Code and regulatory environment. 

In other news, October has been designated as “Local Chamber of Commerce Month” by Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor’s greeting highlights the important role local chambers play in communities throughout the state. Our local chamber partners have been invaluable in our collective efforts to promote a pro-growth agenda in the state Capitol. We look forward to building on these strong relationships to continue to advocate for policies that will improve our business climate and promote economic growth!