Wednesday, November 9, 2016

State finances continue to weigh on local employer outlook

State of Illinois finances remain the biggest drag on the local economy based on a survey of 330 private and public-sector employers released Tuesday by the University of Illinois Springfield

Employers were a little more optimistic than in the spring Economic Outlook Survey. Nearly one-third said they expect the Sangamon County economy to improve in the coming year compared with 25 percent last spring.

They were less optimistic about their individual prospects compared with a year ago. A little less than half predicted a sales increase in the coming year compared with more than two-thirds expecting higher sales in the fall of 2015.

After state government, employers said government regulation, consumer confidence and finding qualified workers were their biggest concerns.

"The main difference here is those companies that do business with the state, and those who don't do business with the state," Juan Carlos Donoso, director of the UIS Research Survey Office, said after release of the survey at the fall economic outlook breakfast of The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. "Those who are not doing business with the state are much more optimistic about the future of their firms and the future of the county economy," Donoso added.

Chamber President and CEO Chris Hembrough said unpaid bills and budget uncertainty have a ripple effect, including for companies that have no direct business with the state. "I talked to a business owner recently in the home-remodeling sector. They don't do any direct work with the state, it's just people holding on to their dollars," said Hembrough, who added that a permanent state budget would go a long way toward easing those concerns. "It's the cloud of uncertainty, even all the way down to not knowing what the personal income tax of the state is going to be," said Hembrough.

The full UIS survey will be released Friday.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 8, 2016.

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