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North Bay Business Journal

Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 11:01 am

Sonoma Co. business confidence reaches five-year high

60% in manufacturing, tech expect to increase hiring

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    Sonoma County business confidence 2001-Q2 2012

    Business confidence in Sonoma County reached its highest point since the depth of the latest economic recession but remains below the 2006 peak. (credit: Sonoma County Economic Development Board)

    Overall business confidence in Sonoma County reached a five-year high this summer, and local executives note even higher confidence for their own industries, according to the most recent quarterly Business Confidence Report by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

    Those improved outlooks were 50 percent stronger than during the winter of 2008, which was the all-time low since the board began polling the county’s businesses in 2001.

    Responders — 71 out of 400 surveyed — represented a broad variety of industries in the county, according to the report. The survey asked executives to rate their perception of current economic conditions in the county on a 10-point scale, from 1 for low confidence to 10 for most positive.

    General business confidence reached 5.9 for the second quarter. The peak was during the same period in 2006, when the index was 6.8. Confidence was slightly lower in responses on the outlook for the next six months: 5.3 in general and 5.7 for specific industries.

    The board’s Purchasing Trends Index, which combines data related to employment and business activity, jumped 18 percent to 71. Any score above 50 indicates a predominance of views that the local economy is expanding. The latest purchasing index increase followed strong reports of new customer orders, according to the report.

    A majority of business executives — 81 percent — expected strong tourism activity over the next six months.

    The strongest employment outlook was seen in manufacturing and technology, with more than 60 percent of executives expecting a hiring increase.

    About 50 percent of responders in health services and education reported an expected decrease in employment.

    Responders remained cautious about the economic recovery, expecting a full recovery is one to four years away, according to the report. The majority expected at least two years before full recovery, and 10 percent expected recovery in more than four years.

    More than half of responders were also cautious about capital expenditures, citing concerns of returning a profit on investment.

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