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Christopher Geehern

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Business Confidence Weakens Slightly in July

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 1, 2017 9:19:07 AM

Massachusetts employer confidence meandered through the first full month of the summer, edging down during July but remaining well within optimistic territory.

BCI.July.2017.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) shed 0.3 points to 61.5 last month, leaving it 6.4 points higher than a year ago. The Index has gained ground in five of seven months so far in 2017.

The July slip was led by the Employment Index, which dropped 2.4 points from June. Experts on the AIM Board of Economic Advisors believe the slide reflects employers’ inability to hire skilled workers amid a tight labor market rather than a hiring slowdown caused by economic factors.

“Confidence levels at or above 60 signal continued strong confidence among employers in the direction of the state and national economies,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“The labor shortage is a serious issue. We hear anecdotes from companies in multiple industries that are turning away business or postponing expansions because they can’t find tech specialists, manufacturing workers or electricians to take the new jobs.”

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.

Constituent Indicators  

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

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, lost a point to 63.2, still six points higher than in July 2016.

The U.S. Index of national business conditions rose 0.5 points to 57.9 despite lingering uncertainty about federal health-care and economic policy. July marked the 88th 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 0.7 points to 61.2 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, edged up 0.1 point to 61.8. The Future Index ended the month seven points higher than a year ago.

Operational Views

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, lost 0.2 points to 62.2, up 6.3 points during the 12-month period. And though the employment Index dropped to 55.7 the Sales index rose for the third consecutive month, gaining 1.5 points to 64.1.

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

Elliot Winer, Chief Economist, Winer Economic Consulting, said workers with the type of skills needed by employers in growing industries remain in short supply, even though Massachusetts has posted significant increases to its labor force so far in 2017.

“Employers report that it is increasingly hard to fill jobs. Job vacancies now significantly exceed new hiring. And yet, wage growth in the state has been near zero when adjusted for inflation,” Winer said.

Eastern Massachusetts companies were more confident in June than those in the western portion of the commonwealth. Eastern Massachusetts employers posted a 61.5 confidence reading in June versus 60.5 for employers in the west.

Manufacturing companies remained optimistic about the economy with the 59.6 confidence reading, but not as optimistic as employers outside the manufacturing sector, who posted a 63.6 result.

Massachusetts Backlash?

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also a BEA member, noted that employer confidence in the Massachusetts economy has stalled as the state legislature has taken several troubling votes, including one last week to force employers to close a $200 million gap in MassHealth with no long-term reforms to the program.

“Employers are thus left not only to struggle with the rising cost of providing health insurance to their own employees, but to bail out an unsustainable public insurance program as well,” Lord said.

“There are consequences to raising the cost of doing business and declining confidence is a red flag for what may come next.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy

Boston Lawmaker Named Chair of Ways & Means Committee

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jul 13, 2017 2:18:38 PM

House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Sunday named a Boston legislator with extensive experience in health-care policy to chair the Ways and Means committee that crafts the state budget.

Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez of Jaimaica Plain will take over from Representative Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, who announced last week that he will resign from the Legislature to take a job at lobbying firm ML Strategies.

Sanchez.jpg"Representative Sanchez is an exceptionally thoughtful legislator who has worked with Associated Industries of Massachusetts on some of the most complex issues facing the business community, especially managing the cost of health care," said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

"We look forward to working with him in his new role as chair of the Ways & Means Committee."

Sanchez currently chairs the Health Care Financing Committee and previously co-chaired the Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health. He has been active on economic justice issues and legislation aimed at addressing racial and ethnic health disparities, and recently co-chaired a special commission that examined price disparities in the health care sector.

His nomination will come before a Democratic caucus today.

Hinting at the potential for challenging health care policy changes at the federal level, DeLeo told State House News Service that the work Sanchez has done as committee chairman "will be crucial as we address the health care challenges inherent to the budget and grapple with uncertainty on the national level." 

Dempsey had served in the Legislature since 1991 and has overseen the past six state budgets. He will become senior vice president and chief operating officer of ML Strategies, an AIM member, in September.

“AIM congratulates Chairman Dempsey and looks forward to working with him in his new role at ML Strategies,” Regan said.

“Mr. Dempsey has always been willing to consider the opinions of the business community and has been a thoughtful voice of moderation in guiding the fiscal course of the commonwealth.”

Dempsey said in a statement: "It has been an incredible honor to serve the people of Haverhill in an elected capacity since 1988. I am proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together. I would like to thank all of my supporters, friends and family for their encouragement and help through the years.

"While I am moving on to a new chapter in my life, Haverhill will always be my home, and we will continue to keep the city moving in the right direction."

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Employer Confidence Strengthens Again

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jul 5, 2017 10:08:03 AM

Massachusetts employer confidence rose for the ninth time in 10 months during June amid optimism about an economy that is finally attracting more people into the work force.

BCI.June.2017.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose one point to 61.8 last month, leaving it 5.7 points higher than a year ago. The Index has gained ground in each of the past two months after slipping in April.

The results come a month after state officials reported a long-awaited expansion of the Massachusetts labor market – the labor-force participation rate rose to 66.7 percent in May, its highest mark since before the Great Recession.

“Employer confidence in both the state and national economies remains well above the level we saw a year ago, especially among manufacturers,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“Key Massachusetts indicators such as total jobs, wages and gross state product far exceed pre-recession levels and that is outweighing concerns about long-term growth.”

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 mostly positive during June.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, gained 2.1 points to 64.2, leaving it 5.7 points higher than in June 2016.

The U.S. Index of national business conditions rose 2.8 points to 57.4 despite lingering uncertainty about federal economic policy. June marked the 87th 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 1.5 points to 61.9 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, increased 0.4 points to 61.7. The Future Index was 5.1 points higher than a year ago.

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, was unchanged for the month at 62.4 and up 4.7 points during the 12-month period. The Employment Index fell 0.4 points to 58.1 while the Sales index rose 0.6 points to 62.6.
The AIM survey found that 39 percent of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months while 18 percent reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months are stable – 38 percent hiring and only 10 percent downsizing.

Alan Clayton-Matthews, a professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, said the supply of workers remains one of the most important factors in the ability of Massachusetts to maintain long-term economic growth.

“There is little slack left in the labor market. Unemployment rates are back to pre-recession levels, and employment rates are very close to pre-recession levels. The slack that does remain is largely among young workers, those with less than a high-school education, and part-time workers who have been unable to find full-time work, suggesting that many workers lack the skills that employers are seeking,” Clayton-Matthews said.

Overall participation in the labor force nationally has hovered below 63 percent during the recovery, compared with more than 66 percent before the recession.
Eastern Massachusetts companies were more confident in June than those in the western portion of the commonwealth. Eastern Massachusetts employers posted a 61.8 confidence reading in June versus 60.8 for employers in the west.

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also a BEA member, said employers are increasingly concerned about a passel of potentially expensive and disruptive Beacon Hill proposals, including a surtax on incomes more than $1 million, paid family leave and an employer assessment to close a budget gap in the MassHealth program.

“Massachusetts employers have led what is now one of the longest and most consistent economic recoveries of the past 100 years. Much of that growth reflects the fact that policymakers have refrained from unnecessarily raising business costs and imposing inefficient regulation,” Lord said.

“We look forward to working with the Legislature and the Baker administration to ensure that those policies continue.”

Topics: Employers, AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy

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

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