Optimism off among owners of small firms

But Ohio survey shows gain in year 

  • city-skyline

  • A fall survey of small-business owners in Ohio shows declining expectations compared to a similar survey in the spring. But it also is more upbeat than the survey results gathered last fall.

    The biannual PNC Economic Outlook survey, conducted by Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, found that optimism about prospects for both businesses and the economy is edging slightly upward in Ohio, thereby continuing a positive trend begun in the spring of this year.

    More Ohio owners reported weak sales as their top problem, with 38 percent planning to raise selling prices in response to increasingly favorable market conditions and to preserve their profits in the face of higher nonlabor and health care costs.

    The findings show 17 percent of small businesses intend to add employees in the next six months, compared with 15 percent last spring who said they would be hiring. An additional 10 percent said they plan to reduce their full-time staff in the next six months.

    Twenty percent of those surveyed said they are optimistic about their own company's prospects over the next six months. That is up from 17 percent in the spring and 18 percent last fall. Approximately 21 percent said they are pessimistic, which is up from 19 percent in the spring.

    The survey found that 38 percent expect sales increases over the next six months. That is down from 56 percent in the spring. Thirty-one percent expect increased profits, compared with 38 percent in the spring. And 17 percent expect to increase their work forces, up from 15 percent in the spring.

    Despite the lowered expectations, those surveyed showed optimism about the economy.

    Seven percent were very optimistic about the national economy, compared to 2 percent in the spring. A year ago, only 3 percent were very optimistic.

    When asked about their personal situation, 49 percent said they were "worse off" than they were in 2007, 19 percent said they were “better off,” and 13 percent said things were “about the same.”

    A total of 53 percent think the federal government will take action after the Nov. 8 election that will positively influence their hiring plans. Thirty-nine percent said they believe the Affordable Care Act will negatively affect their hiring plans in the coming year.

    Those surveyed were upbeat about the rebounding housing market. 

    Thirty percent said they expect home prices in their local market to rise over the coming year, while only 15 percent thought prices would decline. 

    A year ago those results were reversed, with just 12 percent expecting prices to rise and 40 percent expecting them to decline.