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Business leaders less optimistic about 2019

The latest economic survey from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce finds business leaders less optimistic about 2019.

The percentage of respondents who say the state is headed in the right direction dipped significantly, from 89 percent last year to 68 percent now.

Business leaders in the state expressed more confidence about the national economy. Despite top concerns like tariffs, labor shortages and health care costs, 83 percent said the country is headed in the right direction. That’s down slightly from 86 percent in the June survey.

Six months ago, 21 percent of respondents said the Wisconsin economy will see “good growth,” compared to only 14 percent in the most recent survey.  

Still, 86 percent of respondents said their business was profitable in the last six months, and 92 percent expect profitability in the first six months of next year.  

Since the Trump administration enacted tariffs and sparked a series of retaliatory tariffs, their favorability among Wisconsin business leaders has fallen dramatically.

In June -- before the tariffs took effect -- 45 percent of surveyed business leaders supported them. In this most recent survey, 37 percent say the tariffs have had a negative effect on their businesses, compared to just 5 percent who say the effect has been positive. About 50 percent say the tariffs have had no effect.

Fifty-five percent of respondents plan to hire more workers in the next six months, down from 60 percent in the June survey. It’s noted in the WMC release that this may explain why fewer business leaders say they can’t find workers.

The survey found 74 percent of business leaders struggling to find workers, compared to 76 percent in June and 80 percent in last year’s survey.

WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer says while that change looks like a positive one, it might indicate the economy is slowing, “or that businesses are so frustrated by the labor shortage that they stopped actively looking for workers.”

The labor shortage continues to be the top policy issue in the WMC survey. Half of respondents ranked it at number one, followed by health care and high taxes.

In all, 203 business leaders responded to the December survey.

See more results here: http://www.wmc.org/news/press-releases/wisconsins-economy-remains-strong-but-optimism-wanes/ 

--By Alex Moe 


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