The latest survey from Buffalo based M&T Bank shows small and mid-size businesses are growing more optimistic about the economy. But there are also signs of caution.
The head of M&T's Business Banking Division, Eric Feldstein says, the data shows 59 percent of business
owners see the economy improving through year's end - compared to 42 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016. Feldstein says, while respondents are optimistic about their own business they're unsure about their top priorities: healthcare reform and tax reform.
"And as such a large portion of business owners have stated that they're going to hold tight, or just increase very modestly, the number of employees. And be very disciplined, relative to capital expenditures in the near future, until they receive some additional certainty on the legislative agenda," Feldstein said.
M&T conducted its second survey of small and medium size businesses across the bank's footprint which covers eight states and the District of Columbia.
Another key finding among the 300 respondents, Feldstein says, is 75 percent continue having difficulty finding qualified experienced applicants to fill open positions.
"While we did not survey skilled versus unskilled labor - in conversations with clients and members of my team this really goes across the board both with specialized skilled labor as well as those filling other positions that may be unskilled in nature," Feldstein said.
For those already employed - M&T's survey shows 29 percent of small and mid-size businesses plan to hold wages and salary structures flat through at least the end of 2017.