Business Trends Survey Shows Optimism Tempered by Challenges

AGAWAM — With more than 800 members concentrated in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) unveiled the national and regional findings from the 2017 National Business Trends Survey conducted by the Employer Associations of America. Results were gleaned from 1,528 participating organizations, covering 2,741 employer locations throughout the U.S.

According to the national survey results, businesses continue to have an optimistic outlook for 2018 and are preparing for a positive year ahead, with 62% expecting their 2017 sales/revenue to be slightly or significantly better compared to 2016. Continued optimism prevails, as 73% of executives project slight to significant increases in sales/revenue for 2018. However, that optimism is tempered by several serious challenges to business growth, particularly from the shortage of both skilled labor and professional/technical staff, and the ability to pay competitive wages and benefits.

“The survey data certainly reinforces that finding talent is a concrete problem that cannot be put off until tomorrow; employers have to take stock of and plan for their staffing needs today,” said Mark Adams, director of HR Services at EANE.

Highlights of the findings for the Northeast region include:

• For employees, the grass is looking greener. While an economy remaining on the upswing may bode well for employers in many respects, it is not without some challenges. When asked the primary reasons for their 2018 hiring plans, 84% of the executives said they will be replacing staff due to voluntary turnover, and 78% said their hiring will fill new jobs.

• More employers are seeking to hire in 2018 than in 2017. In the Northeast region, 51% of the executives surveyed plan to increase staff in 2018, representing an increase from 41% in the 2017 report.

• The skilled-labor shortage is becoming a greater concern. Despite the need to hire by many regional employers, the ability to find talent remains a problem as 42.3% of regional respondents identified the skilled labor shortage as a “serious” challenge in the short term (up from 37.8% last year) while 52% of respondents identified it as a “serious” challenge long term (up from 47% last year). These concerns are also reflective of the actual experiences faced by respondents, as 59% said they were unable to find skilled labor (an increase from 52% last year).

• Infrastructure remains a prevalent focus. With the economic outlook remaining positive and employers seeking to hold onto their own talent any way they can, regional employers are committed to expanding their investment in employees, processes, and systems for 2018.

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