Monday, December 18, 2017
Business

Trigaux: What effect is this nasty presidential election having on businesses trying to make real decisions?

Is this rancorous presidential election influencing business behavior?

Yes, say some business economists in a national survey released this week. But perhaps not as much as people stressed by the daily barrage of TV coverage of the Trump-Clinton grudge match might think.

A poll of 104 members of the National Association of Business Economists (NABE) and other industry economists found that 13 percent say their firms postponed hiring or investment decisions pending the outcome of the November 2016 presidential election. That figure, gleaned from responses in late September and early October, is up 2 percentage points from the July survey results.

The impact varies by the size of the company responding.

While only 6 percent of respondents from large firms (over 100 employees) indicate their companies delayed decisions, 23 percent of those from smaller firms suggest that uncertainty about the upcoming election caused a delay in hiring or investment decisions.

The election question is one of many asked of economists at a time when the economic recovery is aging. Other surveys and individual economists in recent months have pointed to a rising likelihood of a U.S. recession some time during the first term of the next president.

"The results of the most recent survey appear consistent with an economy in its eighth year of recovery," says NABE president Stuart Mackintosh, executive director of the Group of Thirty, a Washington, D.C., group of international economic consultants.

Still, the survey notes pockets of strength. Over 40 percent report that their firms are increasing investment to support new product lines or for capacity expansion.

"Election uncertainty and potential increases in the minimum wage do not appear to be impacting business decisions in the aggregate, although these issues are a greater concern for panelists in some subgroups," stated Emily Kolinski Morris, Ford Motor's chief economist.

Despite a popular backlash against raising the minimum wage, the NABE survey found minimal concerns among economists. Almost three-fourths of survey respondents (74 percent) said a minimum wage increase would have little or no impact on their firms.

The NABE survey also found:

• 37 percent of those surveyed report that their firms experienced shortages of skilled labor during the last three months of 2016, up from 31 percent in the previous survey.

• 43 percent say their firms had difficulty filling open positions during the third quarter. That's up a bit from 40 percent in July who cited difficulty in hiring during the second quarter.

The NABE survey was released days after Florida reported its latest unemployment rate, which remained stuck at 4.7 percent in September for the fifth straight month.

The steady rate is somewhat misleading since the state is still adding jobs as it grows the size of its labor force. And Florida is hardly alone. Unemployment rates were significantly lower in only seven states, higher in just one state, but stable in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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