For Immediate Release
October 3, 2018
HARRISBURG - Employers are reporting record high confidence in the state’s business climate, and are making investments in their facilities and workers that reflect this optimism. However, a jobs skills gap was listed for the first time as the biggest hurdle facing their business, and ongoing concerns about the state’s tax structure and rising healthcare rates still create barriers to economic opportunity. These indicators are among the responses from the PA Chamber’s 28th Annual Economic Survey, which was conducted in August 2018 by Susquehanna Polling and Research, a Harrisburg-based public opinion polling company.
“The recent enactment of sweeping federal tax and regulatory reforms, combined with months of higher than expected revenue returns has resulted in a long-overdue surge of economic optimism here in the Commonwealth,” PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr said. “As we celebrate this improvement in employers’ future outlook, our organization continues to work toward enacting policies that will set Pennsylvania apart as an ideal business location and boost our competitiveness. In terms of what keeps employers up at night, this year’s survey is evidence that they are having a real problem matching up candidates’ skills to open positions – and we’re proud to be leading a robust effort to reverse this trend.”
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 a stark increase over last year and has officially reached a record 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. The program, part of the Pennsylvania Chamber’s Education Foundation, is also in its second year of teaming with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to increase public awareness around the growing demand for workers in the skilled trades by awarding scholarships to Pennsylvania students through the mikeroweWORKS Work Ethic Scholarship Program. Through donations from the Pennsylvania business community, the PA Chamber Educational Foundation has helped to provide work ethic scholarships specifically for Pennsylvania students with a passion for pursuing a career in the skilled trades. Visit www.StartTheConversationHere.com to learn more about this dynamic program and the PA Chamber’s ongoing efforts to tackle the skills gap in Pennsylvania.
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 this year and also a record high. However, when asked about the 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.
“Last year’s enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is proof that freeing up businesses from excessive tax and regulatory burdens leads to a better economic outcome for all,” Barr added. “These reforms made America’s business climate more globally competitive, and cut some of the red tape that was holding employers back from making the bold investments necessary to really kick-start the economy again. In addition to fighting for tax reforms in Pennsylvania that will mirror the ones already made at the federal level, the Pennsylvania Chamber remains committed to reducing regulatory burdens and working to ensure that our state and nation can continue to strengthen relationships with our trading partners, and remain globally competitive.
“We’re working to combat rising healthcare costs, which employers have cited as a major hurdle over the last ten years of economic surveys,” Barr added. “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.”
To review the 28th Annual Economic Survey, visit the PA Chamber’s website.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry Educational Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) organization created to fund timely and insightful research and educational programs that will positively impact Pennsylvania's economic future and enhance the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.
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.