Business confidence lags among small employers


The State House News Service reported that business confidence declined in February but remains up substantially from its low point in February 2009, according to confidence index results released Tuesday morning. The confidence level of businesses in Massachusetts, as measured by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), clocked in at 51.2 last month, with readings above 50 indicative of predominantly positive sentiment among employers. January’s reading was four points higher. Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors, said major indexes measuring consumer confidence were exhibiting mixed results and said the housing market in Massachusetts was also sending “mixed messages.” AIM also noted that the pace of economic growth in Massachusetts had slipped behind that of the country. Torto said, “February’s results look much like those of last May, with employers a bit less positive about current conditions but more hopeful for the immediate future.” Torto called it a “slow recovery at best” and cautioned global turmoil could affect exports and energy prices and drive confidence down. The new index results also showed small employers in Massachusetts were markedly less positive about business conditions. In a statement, AIM president Richard Lord said, “When we hear that the Fortune 500 companies are bringing in record profits, we must bear in mind that Massachusetts is predominantly a small-employer community.”