The number of Connecticut businesses expecting to expand their workforce jumped in the fourth quarter of 2017, although the search for skilled workers remains a significant challenge.
CBIA's 2017 Fourth Quarter Economic and Credit Availability Survey shows 28% of companies—a seven-point jump from the previous quarter—expect to add employees in 2018.
More than half (54%) of surveyed companies say their workforce will remain stable—compared with 63% in the third quarter—while 17% expect to downsize, unchanged from the last quarter.
CBIA economist Pete Gioia said the manufacturing sector was particularly bullish, representing 62% of those companies expecting to add employees.
"That ties in with what we saw in the third quarter GDP numbers and the preliminary jobs report from last year, which showed manufacturing driving economic and job growth," Gioia said.
Manufacturers added 4,100 jobs in 2017 based on state Department of Labor preliminary numbers. That's more than half the 7,700 total jobs gained last year.
And manufacturing and finance and insurance were the key sectors as the state's economy expanded 3.9% in the third quarter of 2017.
Overall Outlook Stable
Gioia said nearly two-thirds of survey respondents hired at least one new employee in the three months prior to completing the survey.
"However, while two-thirds hired someone in the past three months and 60% plan to hire someone in the next three months, 48% of those trying to hire couldn't fill all their open positions," he said.
"Companies want to hire more. While we heard again about unfilled manufacturing jobs, we also heard up to 80 different job titles that were yet to be filled.
"This only further highlights the need for increased workforce development efforts to help fill vacant jobs around the state."
While two-thirds hired someone in the past three months, 48% of those trying to hire couldn't fill open positions.
The number of businesses with a stable outlook rose six points to 46%, with 16% expecting a downturn, down from 24% in the third quarter.
"Manufacturers represent over half of those reporting either an improved or stable outlook," Gioia noted.
The survey shows commercial credit availability remains strong in Connecticut.
Eighty-seven percent say credit availability is not a problem for their firms and only 5% were unable to satisfy their financing needs.
Respondents still need credit for a wide range of needs, from credit lines to fund operations to expansion of facilities, equipment, and new product development.
Most respondents (86%) classify the current lending climate as average, good, or excellent while the same expect it to stay that way over the next three months.
"Credit is the lifeblood of small businesses," Gioia said.
"And confidence in credit availability signals businesses will seek to use it when the time comes to grow and invest."