says the level of confidence at businesses operating in the county has jumped more than 10 points since late 2011, reaching its second-highest level since the organization starting compiling statistics almost four years ago.
The council’s Westchester Business Confidence Index increased from 54.2 in the 4th quarter of 2011 to a current level of 64.8 — on a scale of 100. This represents a big increase in confidence overall since the inception of the index in December 2008, when levels were at 27, and is only topped by results from the second quarter of 2011, when it was at 66.3, according to Business Council President/CEO Dr. Marsha Gordon.
“This tells me that our combined efforts to improve Westchester’s economy are successful," Gordon said. "We’re working with our legislators to reduce the inhibitors to business growth, and with our county government officials, through our Coalition for Business Development, to make Westchester more welcoming. The results are seen and judged most effectively in the small and mid-size companies that call Westchester home – and we know that they are hiring, they are spending, and they are beginning to flourish once again.”
The Westchester Business Confidence Index – used to track key business metrics, such as trends in staffing levels, top line revenues, bottom line profits, capital spending budgets, and other industry performance data each quarter – compiles information from more than 100 CEOs and business leaders of BCW-member companies. The index is researched and analyzed by member DataKey Consulting LLC.
The council's findings come as good news to Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino.
"Making Westchester more business friendly by lowering taxes and stripping away needless red tape has been a cornerstone of administration," said Astorino. "Create the right environment for companies to be successful and confidence will grow."
The council found this elevated confidence is driven by improved revenue and profit outlooks and higher anticipated employee hiring rates: 22% of Westchester companies have more job openings compared to a quarter ago (with just 7% of companies having fewer openings).
Gordon said Westchester’s buoyed outlook is likely riding on the back of on optimistic nation, as the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate, “held at a three-year low of 8.3 percent last month after falling by 0.8 percentage points in the year ended January,” per Bloomberg. She noted that, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “the jobless rate in the U.S. could drop to as low as 6 percent by the first half of 2013.”
Westchester is currently running at about a 6 percent jobless rate according to the Westchester Department of Economic Development.
The council said survey respondents report that overall, capital spending budgets are slightly up since last quarter, with 21% or respondents intending to increase spending since last quarter and almost a third of respondents (31%) reporting plans to increase their spending compared to one year ago.
Revenue projections, according to the analysis, are also more optimistic than last quarter, with jumps of 14 points and 16 points, respectively, in the number of companies expecting increased revenue compared to 3 months ago and 1 year ago, bringing both of those totals to 59%. Gordon said that means that a strong majority of respondents have a positive outlook for revenue change over the next two quarters. In alignment with optimistic revenue projections, the majority of respondents indicated high expectations about profit numbers, with an 11% increase in the number of companies who expect to report higher profit than three months ago.
Some other findings:
— The majority of respondents (60%) reported increased confidence compared to 1 year ago
— 43% reported an increase in confidence since last quarter.
— Expectations for Westchester County’s outlook, in particular, soared. For the first time since the inception of the index in 2008, the majority of respondents expected that Westchester’s economic conditions would fare better than that of regional neighbors.
The report comes as Westchester sees the opening of another new major retail store in the county with at Ridge Hill in Yonkers, which opens on Friday.
The Business Council of Westchester is the county’s largest business membership organization. The Business Council of Westchester actively reviews federal, state and county legislation and regulations in order to assess the potential impact on the business community and to influence the outcomes through advocacy when the business community’s interests may be affected.
It also acts as an information resource for the business community and government leaders at all levels.