PNC survey: Business optimism rising

But reluctance to hire remains with Ohio behind U.S. average


Owners of small and midsize businesses in Ohio are increasingly optimistic about their future and are more willing to invest in their companies this year. However, they are overwhelmingly reluctant to hire.

According to a PNC Bank survey released Thursday, 10 percent of employers in Ohio say they intend to add workers in the next six months. That’s less than half the national average for the survey.

“They’re still not quite confident enough to ramp up hiring,” PNC economist Mekael Teshome said. “I think that has to do with the fact that it has been a very protracted and volatile economic recovery. Every year we’ve had some major issue to deal with.”

With political theatrics over the budget and government shutdown quieter, some of the uncertainty and pessimism has likely lifted, Mr. Teshome said.

PNC found 28 percent of Ohio employers surveyed are optimistic about their business in the next six months, up from 22 percent last fall. Optimism is also up for the local and U.S. economies.

PNC said 55 percent of business owners feel at least moderately optimistic about the national economy for the next six months, up from 47 percent in October. Optimism about their local economies is even higher, at 61 percent.

“Between the steadily healing economy and a lot of the fog from policy uncertainty being lifted, I think there’s certainly some improvement in sentiment overall,” Mr. Teshome said.

Still, Ohio business owners are holding back on hiring more than the national average. PNC said 22 percent of all U.S. businesses surveyed plan to add employees this year.

In Ohio, those who don’t plan to hire say it’s primarily because they believe their local economy isn’t getting better. The second most often cited reason is that they have chosen to do more work with the same number of employees.

Six percent said they expect to cut jobs. “It’s not that businesses are retrenching, they’re playing it safe,” Mr. Teshome said.

Nationally, PNC found that 64 percent of small and midsize business owners are at least moderately confident about the U.S. economy, the most since 2007.

“The harsh winter’s impact on the U.S. economy overall appears to be temporary,” Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC, said in a statement.

“Now, pent-up consumer demand and continued support from the Federal Reserve are fueling the upbeat tone. These findings support our baseline forecast that the U.S. economic and jobs expansion should quickly bounce back this spring and propel what should be the economy’s best year since before the Great Recession.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @BladeAutoWriter.