Chamber optimistic for business activity

Robert Wonderling was optimistic about the survey.
Robert Wonderling was optimistic about the survey.
Posted: February 14, 2013

When it comes to assessing the local economy, Rob Wonderling, chief executive of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, went shopping for an adverb - and nearly found one that fit.

"A year ago, the phrase was 'cautiously optimistic,' Wonderling said. "Now, it's 'emergingly optimistic,' if that's even a word."

He based his summary on an early December survey of 201 of the chamber's 1,500 members. They generally said they expected business activity to pick up in 2013, forecasting new orders and new sales.

In the survey, conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, nearly double the number of employers said they expected to increase payrolls, at least slightly, in 2013, compared with 2012.

Their optimism is somewhat at odds with the region's unemployment rate, which has been increasing, to 8.4 percent in December, even as the nation's jobless rate has fallen, the U.S. Labor Department said.

In the survey, local business leaders said they plan to spend slightly more money on their physical plants and on software and equipment in 2013 than they did in 2012.

"This is certainly a positive," said Luke A. Tilley, regional economic adviser at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, who presented the results at a chamber breakfast at the Hyatt at the Bellevue on Tuesday.

"Business investment is important for job creation, so I'm encouraged that the [investment] number is so high," Tilley said.

Local business leaders, surveyed about their problems, put poor sales at the top of the lists, followed by employee-benefit costs and government regulation. Taxes and financing rates were also a concern. Less troublesome were employee wages and employee quality.

"Part of the optimism is improving sales," Wonderling said, "but then poor sales is a top problem. Those two data points represent the tenuous nature of the economy."


Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing.

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