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North Bay Business Journal

Friday, October 26, 2012, 4:14 pm

Slight majority of North Bay employers expect economic growth

North Bay, South Bay tie in hiring outlook

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    A majority of Bay Area employers said they won’t increase hiring in the coming months and fewer, including just more than half in the North Bay, expect the overall regional economy to improve by significant measures, although the outlook positive overall, according to a survey released today by Bay Area Council.

    Of 400 top executives and economic-development officials surveyed in the nine Bay Area counties, 58 percent expect to keep workforce levels the same, up from 53 percent in the second quarter. Still, 30 percent plan to increase staffing levels over the next six months. The proportion who expect to decrease their workforces in that period fell by two percentage points to 11 percent.

    The group’s employer confidence index — the number that distills the overall survey findings — dropped two points from the second quarter to 59. The outlook is still positive overall — a score above 50 is positive — but underscores the still-wobbling economic landscape amid political uncertainty, according to the council.

    While the outlook for hiring remains mixed, the outlook for the regional economy over the next six months appears mostly good. In the North Bay, 54 percent of those surveyed think the economy will get better. That compares with 65 percent in San Francisco, 64 percent in San Mateo County and 54 percent in Santa Clara County.

    “The Bay Area continues to be a showcase of economic resilience nationally,” said Jim Wunderman, council president and chief executive officer in a statement. “What we are seeing is some softening of confidence that may be a function of electoral, political and economic uncertainties. Given these, the fact that the index remains firmly in positive territory is encouraging.”

    Across the Bay Area, the construction and transportation industries had the most optimistic outlook for hiring. Fifty-three percent of executives said they expect hiring to increase in coming months. None expected a decrease.

    Manufacturing appeared to be the most pessimistic about hiring. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they expect to shrink employment.

    Hiring in the tech sector appears to be slowing, according to the survey. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they plan to keep their workforces the same size, and 27 percent plan increases.

    The East Bay appeared to be the main drag on overall business confidence, according to the council. Forty-nine percent of CEOs in Alameda County were optimistic for improvement, while it was 48 percent in Contra Costa and Solano counties were. (The council includes Solano in the East Bay.)

    Despite the mixed picture, the Bay Area economy appears to be better off than much of national economy, according to survey results. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed in the Bay Area siad the local economy will get better in the next six months, while just 43 percent in national surveys predict improvement.

    “While Bay Area CEOs may be taking a wait-and-see attitude toward hiring, they remain confident overall,” said Lenny Mendonca, director at McKinsey & Company, which conducted the survey.

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