The Keystone State’s economic ‘malaise’

The Keystone State’s economic ‘malaise’

Things are not well in Penn’s Wood. Not well at all.

“Pessimistic” with “little reason for optimism.” That’s how the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion and Research characterizes the commonwealth’s business leaders as they struggle with not only inflation but continued population declines in its latest Keystone Business Climate Survey.

It is a downright ugly climate:

Forty-nine percent of those responding to the survey say the last six months have brought worse business conditions.

Twenty-seven percent say those conditions have stayed the same.

“For context, ‘same’ is not good as responses to this question have been substantially negative since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020,” reminds Lowman Henry, chairman of the Lincoln Institute.

Twenty-two percent say business conditions have improved.

Broken down, the Lincoln Institute found 67 percent of respondents cite inflation as their top concern while 42 percent fingered labor shortages. Lest we forget supply-chain disruptions, for which 42 percent cited among their top concerns.

Then there are no-less critical issues, such as taxes, energy cost, labor quality, health insurance costs and government regulations, cited as problems by survey respondents, ranging from 36 to 22 percent, respectively.

And let’s not forget that population flight.

Two-hundred-five Keystone State businesses were surveyed.

Just as troubling is the fact that “Business owners and top executives participating in the [survey] do not expect to see any turn-around over the coming six months.”

Strikingly, “52 percent indicated they plan no capital expenditures” over the next three to six months.

Can you say “malaise”?

Henry did just that in the headline detailing the worrisome survey results.

A spring and summer of economic discontent extending into the fall and new year hardly is encouraging. Yet, there’s no excuse for sugar-coating what ails Pennsylvania’s economy.

And there’s no excuse for Pennsylvania’s leaders – hardly held in anything resembling “esteem” in the latest survey – to fail to be bold and forthright in their slaying of the fire-breathing, growth-retarding regulation dragons over which they ride herd.

But hand-wringing won’t get the job done. Only action that reduces, not emboldens, government’s perverting role in the marketplace will.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).