Owners of small and medium-sized businesses across Pennsylvania plan the most hiring since before the recession, mirroring a trend nationally, according to PNC Financial Services Group's semiannual economic outlook survey released Thursday.
Statewide, 18 percent of business owners expect to hire full-time employees over the next six months, double the percentage that planned to add workers in the fall survey, PNC said.
It was the highest level since the spring of 2008, when 23 percent expected to hire.
Nationwide, 28 percent of small and medium-sized businesses have hiring plans, the highest since 32 percent planned to add staff in the spring of 2007.
Private sector job growth is key to sustaining the recovery, particularly among small businesses, which do the lion's share of hiring.
"These findings strongly support the PNC economists' baseline forecast that the U.S. economic and jobs recovery will continue in 2012-2013," PNC said.
Pennsylvania business owners cited an improving outlook for sales or business expansion plans as the top reasons they wanted to add employees.
But at the same time that the outlook for jobs brightened, the prospects for higher inflation loomed.
More businesses in Pennsylvania planned to raise prices in the coming months: 41 percent vs. 30 percent in the previous survey.
Nationwide, 40 percent of businesses surveyed planned to increase prices. Of those, roughly two-thirds expected to increase prices by more than 2 percent, which is the upper limit of the Federal Reserve's recently announced inflation goal.
PNC's survey, conducted between Jan. 25 and March 12, also showed a growing demand for new loans.
In Pennsylvania, 15 percent of business owners "probably or definitely" will take out a new loan or line of credit in the next six months, up modestly from 11 percent in the fall survey.
Across the country, 23 percent of businesses were planning to get a loan or line of credit, the highest level since 29 percent had borrowing plans in the spring of 2009.
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