Monday, April 16, 2012

UIS survey finds Sangamon County employers have a positive economic outlook

Research released by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield show Sangamon County employers have a positive outlook for the performance of the Sangamon County economy over the next 12 months. About four in ten (39%) expect an economic increase, nearly twice as many as those who expect a decline (21%).

Employers are even more positive about the prospects for their own firm or organization. Here, almost half (47%) expect an increase in the next year, about three times as many as those who expect a decline (16%). For both the economy as a whole and for their own firm, about four in ten expect stability (41% for county; 37% for their own firm). The survey also finds that nearly 40% of the employers expect to increase their employment in the next 12 months, compared to 14% who expect a decline.

These results are from the most recent Sangamon County Economic Outlook Survey, conducted with a sample of 189 Sangamon County employers during March. It is a biannual survey that has been conducted since March 2008. The outlook, which is co-sponsored by UIS and The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, includes questions which are asked in every survey as well as those which focus on specific topics for that particular survey.

The current outlook for both the county economy as a whole and for their own firm are the most positive they have been in the four years of the Survey, according to Index scores which summarize the expectation responses. The Outlook Index score for the Sangamon County economy as a whole is now +9, up from +1 one year ago and -8 two years ago. Three years ago, in March 2009, the Index stood at -36, its low point. The Index score for their own firm is now +16, up from +10 one year ago and +1 two years ago. Again, three years ago this Index score was at its low point of -12.

Employers’ expectations for all but one of 12 economic sectors are now positive. The most positive Index score is found for the medical/health care sector (+48). Five other sectors have Index scores around +20: finance/insurance/real estate (+22); retail trade (+20); information and communications (+19); construction (+18); and hotels/food/entertainment (+18).

The only sector with a negative Index score is manufacturing (-3). Yet, this sector has the third largest increase in the Index score since a year ago (from -15 to -3). Larger Index score increases in the past year are found for construction (+1 to +18) and finance/insurance/real estate (+8 to +22).

The two biggest challenges seen by employers in the next 12 months are energy prices (48%) and government regulations/taxes (43%). Following are: employee compensation/benefits (37%); state government finances (34%); and consumer confidence/spending (33%). These are basically the same concerns as were identified one year ago.

For one of the topical questions, employers were asked to identify the most positive and negative development for the Sangamon County economy over the past 12 months. Half (51%) of the respondents identified a positive development, while two-thirds (68%) identified a negative impact.

The most frequent positive developments mentioned related to changes in the medical/health sector (13% of the sample) and the developments on MacArthur Boulevard, specifically the opening of Scheel’s and the MacArthur extension to I-72 (12%). About the same number (12%) identified developments relating to local economic/business/job growth or to an increase in consumer outlook or spending.

By far, the most frequent negative developments mentioned related to state government (27% of the sample). About half of these were about state government finances, including delay in payments (14%). Comments relating to the lack or loss of economic activity or jobs were next most frequent (11%). Following closely were comments relating to city government finances/jobs (10%), including references to CWLP/ electricity rates (6%) and more general references (4%).

Another topical question asked employers how much impact the State government’s delay in paying its bills has had on their firm/organization – and also on those firms who do business with them. Nearly half (48%) said the state’s delay has had at least some impact on their firm, with 27% saying it had either “a lot” or “quite a bit” of impact. About 60% said the state’s delay has had at least some impact on firms that do business with them. Over one-third (37%) said this has had either “a lot” or “quite a bit” of impact on these firms.

The Survey’s Outlook Index Scores: In the Survey, respondents are asked whether an economic aspect will increase quite a bit (+100), increase a little (+50), stay about the same (0), decline a little (-50), or decline quite a bit (-100) over the next 12 months. The Outlook Index Score is the average when the responses are coded on the +100 to -100 scale values next to these responses. The score can range from a low of -100, meaning every responding employer expects the topic to “decline quite a bit” – to a high of +100, meaning every responding employer expects the topic to “increase quite a bit.” A score of 0 either indicates that every respondent expects the topic to “stay about the same,” or that the increase and decline responses are evenly balanced.

For more information on the survey, contact Dick Schuldt, director of the UIS Survey Research Office at 217/206-6591 or email

(PDF) Download the report summary

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