State business leaders bullish on growth, survey shows – AL.com

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Alabama’s business leaders are more optimistic about the state’s economy than at any time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with several planning to increase hiring.

The University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research is out with its Alabama Business Confidence Index, a survey of business executives around the state. It shows the index at 64.3, up more than eight points from the survey in the year’s first quarter.

An index of more than 50 indicates a positive forecast compared to the previous quarter, and the higher the number, the more confident the forecast.

The index combines statewide and national forecasts, sales, profits, hiring and capital expenditures.

Susannah Robichaux, a socioeconomic analyst for the center, said the outlook suggests Alabama’s business leaders are “shaking off the pandemic.”

“When there is a higher ABCI, it signals that business leaders are feeling optimistic about the coming quarter, which is absolutely informing their own decisions about their businesses,” Robichaux said.

The survey indicates business leaders expect to see an increase in sales, profits, hiring and expenditures in the second quarter. Firms of all sizes reported especially strong confidence in growth compared to last quarter. Small firms with fewer than 20 employees had the most confidence.

Business leaders also feel strongly they will increase hiring in the second quarter compared to the first. Only 6.5% of respondents expected to decrease hiring, and the healthcare and social assistance industry is the only one of nine industry categories that expects to possibly decrease in hiring.

Among the state’s metro areas, Tuscaloosa led in confidence with an index of 65.6, followed by Birmingham-Hoover at 65.5, Mobile at 64.6, and Huntsville and Montgomery each at 63.8.

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