Local businesses still worried about future 

Even amid signs of an improved job market, local businesses are still struggling, according to two recent surveys.

The Bay Area Council’s March 4 survey shows 17 percent of local executives expect to lay off workers while 20 percent plan to hire within the next six months.

It’s a marked improvement from last year, when 42 percent said they planned to lay off workers and 10 percent said they planned to hire, according to the Bay Area Council’s poll that surveyed 498 top executives in the nine Bay Area counties.

Business leaders were deflated by the fact that even with steps toward recovery, businesses still feel their futures are bleak, said Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California.

The survey is consistent with statewide results, according to a recent survey conducted by Small Business California.

Among the 2,700 small businesses surveyed statewide, 21 percent said they do not see themselves in business in California by 2013, up from 16 percent last year.

In addition, 76 percent of those surveyed said they do not plan to hire new employees in the next six months, and 24 percent said they will hire during that same time period.

“Clearly, small businesses are still in a world of hurt,” said Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “They have been running their business off their credit cards, and that can only happen for so long. They need the economy to turn around, and there are signs of that happening, but will it be fast enough to stay in business?”

Steve Sarver, co-owner of the San Francisco Soup Co. and who participated in the Small Business California poll, said he doesn’t feel the economy has become any better for small businesses.

“I’m not sure if it’s because they thought the economy would get worse to the point they would have to shut down or if it’s because they are tired of running a business in such an unfriendly business climate, but I was shocked to see such a big number,” Sarver said.

The polling results likely will strengthen the argument for more government stimulus, especially in San Francisco, where the unemployment rate is 9.4 percent and 9,899 businesses closed their doors last year.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has been pushing for a slew of tax breaks, including one that provides businesses with a payroll tax break on new hires. This could create as many as 2,000 jobs while costing The City less than $40 million.  

“It’s not an economic recovery until the private sector starts adding jobs,” Newsom said.


Uncertainty reigns

Responses from a statewide survey of small businesses:

7% Work force has increased in past year

43% Work force has declined

3% Climate for small business will improve in next few years

26% Climate will become worse in next few years

Source: Small Business California survey

eXaminer file photo
Cool climate: In a statewide survey of small businesses, 21 percent said they are not confident about being in business in California by 2013, up from 16 percent last year.

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