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Christopher Geehern

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Employer Confidence Rebounds in May

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 6, 2017 8:29:22 AM

Massachusetts employer confidence resumed its upward trajectory during May as companies expressed renewed optimism about their own business prospects and hiring plans.

BCI.May.2017.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) edged up 0.6 points to 60.8 last month after retreating from a 13-year high in April. The Index has increased in eight of the past nine months and now stands 3.1 points higher than in May 2016.

The May advance was led by strengthening employer confidence in their companies, rather than their overall views of the state and national economies. Manufacturers were particularly bullish, ending May a full 7 points higher than a year earlier.

“We were not surprised to see confidence readings correct slightly in April, and the May results suggest that employers still feel positive about the future,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“In fact, employers seem to have more confidence in their own economic prospects than in the broader economies in which they operate.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during May.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, lost 1.2 points to 62.1, leaving it a slim 1.8 points higher than in May 2016.

The U.S. Index of national business conditions shed 2.3 points to 57.2, its second consecutive decline. May marked the 86th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 0.5 points to 60.4 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, increased 0.8 points to 61.3. The Future Index was 3.2 points higher than a year ago.

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, gained 2.2 points for the month and 3.2 points for the 12-month period to 60.2. The Employment Index rose 2.3 points to 58.5, and the Sales Index was up 1.5 points to 62.

The AIM survey found that nearly 39 percent of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months while 19 percent reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months are more optimistic – 38 percent hiring and only 10 percent downsizing.

Sara L. Johnson, Senior Research Director, Global Economics, IHS Markit, and a BEA member, said it is encouraging that employers are looking at their own balance sheets and feeling confident enough to anticipate stepped-up hiring.

“The overall AIM Index continues to move in a range that suggests solid optimism among employers, both in the current time frame and six months into the future. As optimism turns to hiring, the tight labor market is likely to put upward pressure on wages,” Johnson said.

The changing dynamics of the labor market were underscored last week when the government issued a jobs report that reflected a decline in the share of working-age adults who have a job or are in the market for one. Overall participation in the labor force has hovered below 63 percent during the recovery, compared with more than 66 percent before the recession.

For the second time in three months, Western Massachusetts companies were more confident in May than those in the eastern portion of the commonwealth. Western Massachusetts employers posted a 61.2 confidence reading in May versus 60.9 for employers in the western part of the state.

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also a BEA member, said employers appear to be drawing encouragement from within rather than looking for clues amid the chaotic and often contradictory signals of the overall economy and political debate.

“Employers, like everyone else, are still trying to digest the economic implications of the United States pulling out of the climate-change accord. They are also trying to balance the promise of meaningful federal tax reform with concern about renegotiated trade agreements and Medicaid changes that could blow a $2 billion hole in the state budget,” Lord aid.

“Amid all those factors, the potential acceleration of hiring speaks to the resiliency of Massachusetts employers and the global pre-eminence of their products and services.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Jobs

Governor Baker Addresses AIM Annual Meeting

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 12, 2017 12:19:02 PM

Governor Charlie Baker delivered the keynote address at the 2017 AIM Annual Meeting last week in Boston. The governor reviewed the accomplishments of his administration and ended with a passionate plea for bipartisanship.

Here is his full speech...

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts economy, Charlie Baker

Tech Foundry Addresses Burgeoning Need for IT Workers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 11, 2017 3:31:56 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award to Tech Foundry of Springfield.

Founded in 2013, Tech Foundry has trained more than 100 people ranging from high school students to older workers – many from underserved and at-risk populations – to meet the accelerating demand for qualified IT workers in western Massachusetts.

Here is their story...

 

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Education, Gould Education and Workforce Training

AIM Vision Awards | WHOI Makes Massachusetts Global Center of Ocean Science

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 10, 2017 10:45:10 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the second annual Vision Awards, which honor the accomplishments of companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the economy and citizens of Massachusetts.

One of three 2017 Vision Awards went to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and its Director and President, Mark Abbott.

WHOI is the world’s largest, private non-profit oceanographic research institution and a global leader in the study and exploration of the ocean. An unmatched reputation for intellectual discovery under the water has allowed the organization to contribute to its economic surroundings out of the water as well.

Here is their story...

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts employers, AIM Vision Award

AIM Vision Awards | Bright Horizons Helps Employers, Employees Balance Complex Work/Life Issues

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 9, 2017 1:43:52 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the second annual Vision Awards, which honor the accomplishments of companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the economy and citizens of Massachusetts.

One of three 2017 Vision Awards went to Bright Horizons Family Solutions of Watertown and its co-founder, Linda Mason. Bright Horizons has forged a trusted global presence as an indispensable resource for employers and their workers seeking to address an increasingly complex array of work-life issues.

Here is their story...

 

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts employers, AIM Vision Award

AIM Vision Award | Financial Services Pioneer Fidelity Continues to Innovate

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 8, 2017 11:00:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the second annual Vision Awards, which honor the accomplishments of companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the economy and citizens of Massachusetts.

One of three 2017 Vision Awards went to financial services pioneer Fidelity Investments and its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Abby Johnson.

Fidelity has used innovation and an unrelenting focus on customer service to mold itself into a diversified financial services firm that is a leader in personal investing, workplace investing, and tools and services for financial intermediaries.

Here is their story:

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts employers, AIM Vision Award

Governor Makes Case for Bipartisanship

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 8, 2017 10:11:59 AM

Governor Charlie Baker, speaking one day after a health-care bill once again passed the US House of Representatives without a single vote from the minority party, made a passionate case for bipartisanship in a speech to the AIM Annual Meeting Friday.

Baker.2017.jpg“In the end, you’re not measured by how many things you opposed but how many things you get done,” the governor told more than 850 business leaders gathered at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel.

“I take tremendous satisfaction from the fact that we get along with people on both sides of the aisle.”

Governor Baker has worked closely throughout his first two years in office with the two top Democrats in the Massachusetts Legislature – House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg – on complex issues ranging from the MBTA and energy policy to the opiate crisis. The bipartisan approach has made the governor the most popular chief executive in the nation, according to polls.

“I’ve learned a lot from people I don’t agree with,” said Governor Baker, who said his entire staff prides itself on listening to ideas from throughout the ideological spectrum.

The governor’s speech highlighted an Annual Meeting celebration that featured presentation of 2017 AIM Vision Awards to Fidelity Investments, Bright Horizons Family Solutions and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. AIM also presented the John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award to Tech Foundry of Springfield.

Governor Baker highlighted several bipartisan initiatives he said have been cornerstones of his administration:

  • Strengthening communities, including a $300 million funding increase for k-12 education, development of a second-generation MCAS test, $800 million for local roads and bridges and an initiative under which cities and towns can share best governing and management practices.
  • Economic growth, including a broad regulatory review, a multi-million-dollar investment in vocational/technical schools, streamlining of mass transit systems and an energy bill that maintains costs while reducing the commonwealth’s carbon footprint.
  • Improved efficiency, including reduced wait times at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and an overhaul of the Health Insurance Connector Authority, which broke down several years ago as residents were attempting to buy insurance.

Bipartisan cooperation, the governor said, was one of the primary reasons that General Electric Company chose to locate its corporate headquarters in Boston. The company has often cited the collaboration between the Republican Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat, as a factor in its decision to move from Connecticut.

Governor Baker praised the work done by AIM to represent the interests of employers in public-policy debates.

He praised the association for its willingness to “speak candidly and straight about issues it cares about.”

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts, Charlie Baker

Woods Hole Oceanographic President Discusses AIM Vision Award

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 2, 2017 3:01:03 PM

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) - the world’s largest, private non-profit oceanographic research institution and a lynchpin of the Massachusetts economy – will be one of three organizations honored with AIM Vision Awards on Friday.

Mark Abbott, the President and Executive Director of WHOI, spoke to Public Radio’s Living Lab Radio yesterday about receiving the Vision Award and about the organization’s long-term strategy for maintaining its status as a pre-eminent scientific center.

We invite you to listen to his comments. Please go to 6:07 on the audio download from WCAI in Falmouth.

Listen to the Interview

Other 2017 Vision Award winners are Fidelity Investments and Bright Horizons Family Solutions.

Topics: AIM Vision Award

Business Confidence Retreats After Seven-Month Rally

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 2, 2017 9:46:20 AM

Massachusetts employers hit the pause button on a seven-month rally in business confidence during April, but their outlook remained solidly optimistic in the face of mixed political and economic signals.

BCI.April.2017.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost 2.2 points to 60.2 last month, 4.0 points higher than its level of a year earlier. Every constituent element of the confidence index lost ground after reaching a 13-year high during March.

The results came as the Massachusetts economy contracted at a 0.5 percent annual rate during the first quarter and the state unemployment rate rose to 3.6 percent.

“We should not be surprised to see confidence readings correct slightly after advancing six points since September,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“It bears watching to determine whether the broad April decline becomes a trend as we move into the summer.”

Analysts believe the numbers may reflect growing concern among employers about the ability of the Trump Administration to deliver the many pro-growth policies it promised during the campaign.

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Employers grew less confident about both the overall economy and their own operations during April.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, lost 0.4 points to 63.3, leaving it 6 points higher than in April 2016.

The U.S. Index of national business conditions shed 2.7 points after gaining ground for the previous sixth months. April marked the 85th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, declined 1.9 points to 59.9 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, dropped 2.5 points to 60.5. The future outlook remained 3.2 points higher than a year ago.

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, fell 2.6 points to 60.2. The Employment Index fell 2.8 points to 56.2, and the Sales Index declined 2.1 points to 60.5.

The AIM survey found that nearly 39 percent of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months while 19 percent reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months were stable – 37 percent hiring and only 10 percent downsizing.

Barry Bluestone, Stearns Trustee Professor of Political Economy at Northeastern University and a BEA member, noted that the Massachusetts economy is running up against tightness in the labor market that makes it difficult for employers to grow.

“The combination of a prolonged economic recovery and the demographics of skilled workers retiring with no one to replace them is creating an impediment to growth for Massachusetts employers. The shortage underscores once again the importance of creating an education and training system that responds to the demands of the economy,” Bluestone said.

The April survey also reversed an unusual result in March when Western Massachusetts companies were more confident than those in the eastern portion of the commonwealth. Eastern Massachusetts employers posted a 61.7 confidence reading in April versus 58 for employers in the western part of the state.

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also a BEA member, said employer confidence is also facing headwinds from accelerating health-care and health-insurance costs. Massachusetts has exceeded its objective for health-care spending in each of the past two years and employers continue to pay some of the highest costs in the nation.

“The good news is that Massachusetts is beginning to identify some answers. And there appears to be enough common ground and political will on the issue to pursue some solutions,” Lord said.

“New research conducted by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission suggests that Massachusetts employers, insurers and policymakers could reduce total health-care expenditures anywhere from $279 million per year to $794 million per year, or 0.5 to 1.3 percent, by making several key improvements to the health-care system.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

Employer Confidence Rises Again in March

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 4, 2017 8:47:09 AM

Massachusetts employer confidence inched higher during March amid a swirl of contradictory economic and political signals.

BCI.March.2017.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) increased 0.3 points to 62.4 last month, 5.9 points higher than its level of a year earlier and the highest reading since August 2004. The seventh consecutive monthly improvement reflected an increase in the U.S. Index of national business conditions, which has risen 9.1 points during the previous year, and a bullish overall view of current conditions.

The results came as the government announced that the U.S. economy grew in the fourth quarter at a faster pace than previously reported on higher consumer spending. At the same time, the Massachusetts unemployment rate rose to 3.4 percent as employers created jobs at an annual pace of 57,700.

“Massachusetts employers remain broadly confident about both the state and national economies,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“Slight declines in the Employment Index, the Manufacturing Index and projections about the economy six months from now perhaps reflect some of the uncertainty about the direction of economic policy in Washington.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

The sub-indices based on selected questions or categories of employer were mixed during March.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, rose 0.5 points to 63.7, leaving it 6.2 points higher than in March 2016.

The U.S. Index of national business conditions gained ground for the sixth consecutive month. Views of the national economy rose one point to 59.9. Still, February marked the 83rd consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, surged 1.9 points to 61.8 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, lost 1.4 points to 63.0. The future outlook was 4.9 points higher than a year ago.

The sub-indices bearing on survey respondents’ own operations were also ambiguous.

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, remained unchanged from February at 62.8. The Employment Index fell 1.4 points to 60.4, but the Sales Index gained 1.1 points to 62.6.

The AIM survey found that nearly 39 percent of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months while 19 percent reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months were stable – 37 percent hiring and only 10 percent downsizing.

One of the most unusual results of the March survey was that Western Massachusetts companies were more confident (63.6) than those in the eastern portion of the commonwealth (62.2). Confidence outside of the white-hot Boston economy has been increasing steadily for months, but experts say it is too soon to say whether the geographic shift represents a long-term trend or a statistical anomaly.

Paul Bolger, President, Massachusetts Capital Resource Company, and a BEA member, noted that the March confidence survey was taken just as Republican efforts to repeal federal health reform fell apart.

“Employers have anticipated that a Republican Congress and a Republican president would deliver traditional pro-growth measures such as tax reform and infrastructure improvements. The failure of those parties to pass health-reform legislation seems to have created uncertainty about other legislative priorities that matter to employers,” Bolger said.

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also a BEA member, echoed the sense of uncertainty that hangs over Massachusetts as federal policymakers in Washington struggle to establish a direction.

“Many growth industries in Massachusetts such as health care, higher education, research and defense, depend upon federal funding and are vulnerable to potential budget reductions,” Lord said.

“Discussion of transitioning Medicaid, the health-insurance program for low-income Americans, to block grants also has significant implications to the health care system that is already straining employers.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers

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