For Immediate Release
October 3, 2017
HARRISBURG - As the nation’s economic climate steadily improves, employers are increasingly optimistic about the state of business in the Commonwealth, as well as projections for future growth in sales and hiring. However, their ability to offer healthcare to their workforce due to persistent uncertainty and rising costs in the market continue to be a chief concern. These indicators are among the responses from the PA Chamber’s 27th Annual Economic Survey, which was conducted in August 2017 by Susquehanna Polling and Research.
“As the Pennsylvania Chamber’s ongoing mission is to improve the state’s economic climate and encourage new opportunities for businesses of all sizes, it is refreshing to see evidence that employers are more confident in their projections for sales growth and hiring over the next 12 months,” said PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr. “However, their complaints about rising healthcare premiums – along with problems inherent in Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation systems – are very real burdens that should alert lawmakers of the need to make necessary reforms.”
According to the survey, the rising costs of healthcare rank among employers’ top concerns; with 65 percent of respondents saying that “controlling the costs of healthcare” should be the Pennsylvania Chamber’s top policy priority in its dealings with lawmakers. In fact, while 61 percent of the survey participants said that they provide health coverage for their employees – a slight increase over last year but still far less than the 74 percent who offered health care in 2013 – a vast majority of them (73 percent) admitted that premiums have increased. Also listed as problematic was the lack of clarity that exists within the state’s unemployment compensation system, as 64 percent said they’ve encountered situations whereby employees fired for good cause were awarded benefits; as well as workers’ compensation premiums that have increased for more than a third of respondents in recent years.
“Certainly, the healthcare premium hikes we’ve seen in the years since Obamacare became the law of the land have led more businesses to reduce employee benefits or even drop insurance coverage for their workers,” Barr added. “With the future of this law still in question, the Pennsylvania Chamber will continue to advocate for increasing employer flexibility and eliminating costly mandates as we educate employers on how to achieve compliance and maximize their options.”
Of the 654 employers surveyed statewide, a strong majority – 76 percent – believe that the state’s economy is “better” or “the same” as it was one year ago. Also, the percentage of employers who say the economy is the “most important issue” affecting their businesses is down to 10 percent – the lowest figure in nearly 10 years since before the Great Recession took hold in 2008-09. Additionally, 42 percent say they expect sales growth to increase in coming months; 22 percent expect to hire more workers; and 27 percent noted that they made “major” investments in machinery or technology over the last year, with 15 percent more pledging to make those investments in the coming months.
Despite these positive gains, employers still face an array of challenges staying competitive in the marketplace. Other leading barriers to growth that were noted in the survey included: over taxation; mandates and regulations; and workforce development. The PA Chamber continues to work diligently toward addressing these issues by advocating for a fair, clear and competitive tax structure; reducing burdensome regulations that hinder economic progress; and closing the jobs skills gap through our Start the Conversation HERE workforce initiative – a grassroots campaign aimed at addressing the skills gap in Pennsylvania.
To review the 27th Annual Economic Survey, visit the PA Chamber’s website.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its statewide membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.