PA business leaders report
state's economy improving
For the first time since September of 2000 more Pennsylvania employers
say the state's business climate is improving than think it is getting
worse. The Lincoln Institute's Fall 2004 Keystone Business Climate Survey
found 28% of the business leaders surveyed say the economy has improved
over the past six months, while 21% felt it had deteriorated. Another
49% felt business conditions were about the same as they were six months
The period between March of 1996 and September of 2000 consistently
found employers reporting improving business conditions in the commonwealth.
However, the March 2001survey - reflecting the recession that began during
the waning months of the Clinton Administration - found employers turning
pessimistic with 32% saying business conditions had gotten worse in the
preceding six months and only 21% reporting better business conditions.
That negative trend persisted through last Spring's survey when 34% said
business conditions had worsened while just 23% felt conditions had improved.
Results of the current survey are consistent with national economic
statistics. Those numbers show the U.S. economy emerging from a period
of sluggish economic growth greatly affected by the terrorist attack on
the World Trade Center . Pennsylvania employers not only report improving
economic conditions over the past six months, but are optimistic that
more progress will be made in the upcoming six month period. Thirty-six
percent say they expect business conditions to improve over the winter
months, while 18% forecast worsening state economy. Forty-one percent
say conditions will remain about the same.
Job growth has been the lagging component of the current economic recovery.
However, the current Keystone Business Climate Survey finds improvement
in that area as well. Twenty-two percent say employment levels at their
company are higher than they were six months ago, compared to 15% who
say employment is down. The March 2004 survey found employment levels
up at just 18% of firms, but lower at 17% -- painting a stagnant jobs
picture at that time.
Looking ahead six months employers are optimistic that job growth will
continue. Twenty-eight percent say they plan to add to their employee
compliments over the coming six months, while just 7% forecast employing
On the sales front, a robust 43% say sales have increased during the
previous six months, while 24% say sales have lagged. Looking ahead six
months, 44% forecast increased sales, while 11% expect sales to drop.
That confidence level is slightly lower than reported in the March 2004
survey, when 53% forecast rising sales and 7% thought their sales would
Pennsylvania companies are largely retaining their facilities in the
Keystone State . Eighty-nine percent said they did not consider moving
any of their jobs or operations out of the commonwealth over the past
six months. Three percent did move some operations out of state, while
another 8% considered moving operations. None of the companies surveyed
said they considered moving operations into Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania 's employers continue to give President George W. Bush
a high job approval rating. Seventy-nine percent in the current Keystone
Business Climate Survey say the have a positive view of the President's
job performance, while 16% disapprove. That number is virtually unchanged
from last spring when 80% held a positive opinion of President Bush compared
to a 16% negative rating.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan's job performance rating,
while strongly positive, continues to slide. Sixty-nine percent give the
fed head a positive rating. That's down from 73% last spring and 78% a
year ago. He receives a 7% negative rating in the current survey.
Although still viewed unfavorably, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter's job
performance rating has improved somewhat since last spring. Thirty-one
percent of the employers surveyed give him a positive rating, while 43%
hold a negative view of the state's senior senator. Last spring just 25%
gave Senator Specter a positive rating and 51% held a negative view. Meanwhile,
69% gave Senator Rick Santorum a positive job performance rating, while
13% hold a negative view.
Governor Ed Rendell continues to be the least popular statewide elected
official among members of the business community. Although his positive
rating has improved over the past six months, only 17% of the survey respondents
gave him a positive job performance rating while 69% hold a negative view
of the governor. Last spring, just 10% held a positive view of his job
performance compared to 78% with a negative opinion.
Among legislative chambers only the United States House of Representatives
received a favorable job performance rating in the Fall 2004 Keystone
Business Climate Survey, and that only a plurality. Forty-six percent
said the House is doing a good job, while 34% hold a negative view. An
outright majority (52%) hold a negative opinion of the job performance
of the U.S. Senate, while 27% say the senate is doing a good job. Thirty-nine
percent have a negative view of the Pennsylvania Senate, compared to 31%
who feel the state senate is performing well. Thirty-seven percent feel
the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is falling short, with 34% thinking
the state house is doing a good job.
Heroes, and Role Models
The Fall 2004 Keystone Business Climate Survey also included a wide
range of questions posed to the state's business leaders on leadership
qualities, and the personal characteristics they look for in selecting
their heroes and role models. Results of those questions can be obtained
on-line at www.lincolninstitute.org.
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research conducted the Fall
2004 Keystone Business Climate Survey on-line, receiving completed survey
forms from 156 business leaders from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
between October 4, 2004 and October 12, 2004 . Complete numeric results
of the current survey, as well as archival results from past polls can
be viewed at www.lincolninstitute.org.