Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UIS survey reveals strikingly positive expectations about the Sangamon County economy

A survey conducted by the University of Illinois Springfield Center for State Policy and Leadership, in partnership with The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, shows Sangamon County employers are positive about the overall local economy, their business sector, and the economy of their own business or organization. This is the first survey since Spring 2012 in which respondents have reported positive expectations in those categories.

The Spring 2014 Sangamon County Economic Outlook Survey studied local businesses, and non-profits in order to gauge expectations across several economic indicators. The survey is based on the responses of 201 individuals representing various economic sectors including construction, manufacturing, retail, financial, and healthcare.

The survey found a significant portion of businesses are not expecting a decrease or increase in Sangamon County employment for the next year. A total of 51.5 percent of respondents expect employment to “stay the same,” while 28.3 percent expect an increase and 20.2 percent of respondents report that there will be a decline.

Results from the survey show 45 percent of Sangamon County employers think the biggest challenge they face in the next 12 months are government regulations and taxation, which remain heaviest on the minds of local area businesses and non-profit organizations. As expected, 41.8 percent of respondents consider the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and health care for employees as the second largest challenge.

When asked how minimum wage increases would affect small business owners, 77 percent of respondents felt it would hurt small business owners while 20 percent felt it would have little effect and three percent felt it would help small business owners. The vast majority of respondents, 81.1 percent, indicate that they believe the ideal minimum wage is higher than $8.25, the current minimum in Illinois.

Beside expectations about inflation rates and capital investment, major economic indicators saw positive expectation increases since Fall 2013. The outlook for gross sales/revenue increased by seven points when compared to the last survey, and represents the single largest improvement among the seven economic indicators.

When analyzing the expectations by industry sectors, manufacturing and wholesale trade saw substantial gains compared last fall, both jumping up 14 points. Overall, 9 out of 12 industry sectors had higher expectations than six months ago. The next highest gains were made by retail trade and transportation/warehousing, with both posting 10 point gains in positive expectations for industries in Sangamon County. Healthcare maintains the highest overall expectations with 32 points despite experiencing a slight decline since the last iteration of the survey.

Businesses and organizations had similar outlooks of themselves in the survey, posting steady, strong numbers. There were increases in overall expectations, while profitability and capital investment maintained identical expectations from last fall. The total number of employees and gross revenue/sales were only slightly lower in expectations when compared to the last survey.

The survey is sponsored by the University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor’s Office, the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS and The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

For more information on the survey, contact Ashley Kirzinger, director of the UIS Survey Research Office, at 217/206-7956 or akirz2@uis.edu.

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