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Employer Confidence in Massachusetts Weakens in February

BOSTON — Confidence among Massachusetts employers weakened for the fifth time in seven months during February, but businesses remain optimistic overall about the ability of the Massachusetts economy to ride out uncertainty abroad and an increasingly curious election season in the U.S.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index shed 0.7 points to 55.1 last month, still comfortably above the 50 mark that denotes a positive economic outlook.

However, the reading was 4.7 points below its level of a year earlier, weighed down by growing concern about the slowing U.S. economy. That concern was confirmed Friday when the government said U.S. economic growth slowed to 1% during the fourth quarter of 2015.

“We’re seeing some ambivalence among employers as they look at the economy, especially the turmoil in some overseas markets, but all within the range of general optimism about 2016,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “Ambivalence indeed seems to define most views of the U.S. economy, as we saw last week when the annual economic report of the president noted the strong rebound since 2008 while acknowledging that economic forces, including the rapid pace of technological change, are weighing on American industry.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. The index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

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