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Survey: Workforce Issues Could Slow Region's Economy

Small business owners in southwestern Pennsylvania are on the whole optimistic about the region’s economy, and more than a third of them expect to see their sales increase in the coming quarter.  The projection comes from the latest PNC survey, which looks not only at Pennsylvania but also at the other areas where the bank has operations.

“Pennsylvania small businesses continue to increase their plans to hire over the next six months,” said PNC Economist Kurt Rankin.  Twenty percent of those surveyed plan to add new full-time employees.

However, at the same time, business owners are complaining that it is not always easy to fill their job openings.  32 percent say it is more difficult to find qualified employees than it was just six months ago.

“That number is the highest among the regions surveyed except for Michigan where there are even more troubles going on in Detroit,” Rankin said.

While Pennsylvania continues to see workforce losses, down 1.6 percent since August 2013, Rankin is seeing workforce gains in Texas and North Dakota where there is “energy industry development, which is on the ground here in Pennsylvania but is not nearly as much of a driver here as it is in those locales.”

Also highlighted in the survey is an expectation among thirteen percent of small businesses to go into the credit market in the coming six month. That compares to eleven percent in the spring survey.   About 30 percent of those surveyed expect to increase wages and one third expect to increase prices.

Nearly 40-percent of the respondents in the state say they are still not fully recovered from last year’s cold and snow.  Rankin said he thinks that is less about the severity of the losses last winter and more about the inability to make gains with the less-than-strong economy over the last several months.