BOSTON (SHNS) – Business polls in Massachusetts offer conflicting reviews this week.
Massachusetts Associated Industries reported Monday that employers grew more confident in April despite high inflation and first-quarter economic contraction. The business group’s business confidence index recorded its third consecutive monthly gain, rising to 58.1 on a 100-point scale.
“Massachusetts companies remain optimistic about the sustainability of economic expansion even amid tightening financial conditions and uncertainties related to COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine,” said Sara Johnson, President of the AIM Board of Economic Advisers, in a statement.
Johnson said all elements of the business confidence index were in optimistic territory in April and the highest reading was recorded for employers’ views on the prospects of their own businesses.
AIM analysts said bay state businesses continue to be hampered by supply chain constraints and attributed price increases and material shortages locally, at least in part, to blockages in the state. COVID in China and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Companies are forced to use all the creativity they can muster to secure the supply of raw materials and bring their products to key markets,” said AIM President John Regan.
The view of small businesses across the country, the National Federation of Independent Businesses reported Tuesday, is markedly different.
The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, which shows monthly sentiment from NFIB members, remained unchanged in April, and the number of small business owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months it declined to the lowest level recorded in the 48-year survey. .
Massachusetts NFIB chief Chris Carlozzi said the outlook for small businesses in Massachusetts is “very similar” to the national outlook. Small businesses, he said, continue to struggle to fill open positions and spend more on labor and materials, leading to higher prices.
“In general, you are hearing that these struggles continue,” Carlozzi told the News Service on Wednesday.
While some older employers overcame the pandemic by switching to remote work, Carlozzi said NFIB members in the retail, hospitality and services sectors were among those who were completely shut down during the pandemic and have since fought to recover the workers. Many smaller companies do not have the same purchasing power as their larger counterparts, he said, and some have been forced to switch to completely new business models.
Carlozzi urged lawmakers to adopt unemployment insurance policies that would provide more relief to small businesses, avoid new “labor mandates,” and pass real estate tax reforms that he said would make Massachusetts more competitive with others. states. Reducing the gas tax, he said, would also help companies that need to deliver their products and cannot escape record inflation and gas prices. Massachusetts lawmakers have so far rejected plans to suspend the gas tax.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday that inflation remains extremely high, rising 8.3 percent over the 12 months to April, compared to an 8.5 percent increase. percent of the 12-month period that ended in March.
When he introduced a $ 49.7 billion 2023 fiscal budget bill on Tuesday, Senate Budget Chief Michael Rodrigues pointed to supply chain problems, the situation in Ukraine and “rising inflation” between factors that contribute to “increasing economic anxiety, turbulence, and uncertainty at home.”
But Rodrigues said Massachusetts has shown “economic resilience” and described a state prepared to meet future needs due in part to the work of its taxpayers, who have helped record record budget surpluses and build the state fund for rainy days at $ 4.6 billion, with a Balance of $ 6.7 billion in forecast.
On Wednesday, HarborOne Bank released a recent survey that indicates that 91 percent of consumers in the bank’s footprint in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island believe their communities “should do more to support small businesses “and their recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.
HarborOne Bank President and Chief Operating Officer Joseph Casey described the results as “encouraging news” for small local businesses.
“There’s no doubt that people in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island are eager to sponsor local merchants, restaurants, and service providers as it picks up and strengthens more spending in person,” Casey said.
Of all respondents surveyed by Seven Letter Insight, 86 percent described the local economy where they live as at least “fair” and 54 percent said they have resumed shopping, dining and shopping at the same volume. than before the pandemic. ” ”, With another 32 percent planning to do so.
The bank’s consumer perception survey, completed in late March, surveyed 452 respondents in six income categories. The survey also found that 60 percent of respondents believe the pandemic is likely or not over.