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Ohio business owners cautious about economy

Many small and mid-sized business owners in Ohio, cautious about the outlook for the state’s economy, plan to hold back on hiring in the coming months, according to a PNC Financial Services Group survey.

Expectations for hiring are little changed from PNC’s past surveys conducted fall 2012 and springtime a year ago.

Of the survey takers in Ohio, 14 percent of business owners said they plan to increase hiring over the next six months, 73 percent expect hiring to stay the same and 8 percent expect to cut back.

In October last year, 17 percent of small business owners expected to increase hiring. This time in 2012, 15 percent planned to do more hiring, PNC said.

Ohio business owners told PNC they have more optimism about the local economy now than they did last fall before the presidential election and “fiscal cliff.” But they don’t have as positive an outlook as they did a year ago.

The survey, released Thursday, found 58 percent of Ohio business owners currently were optimistic about their local economy, compared to 71 percent of business owners nationally.

PNC has forecast employment to grow this year by 1.4 percent in southwest Ohio, including Cincinnati and Dayton. This year, PNC is expecting U.S. Gross Domestic Product growth of 1.8 percent, considered to be moderate.

“We’ve been in this recovery for four years and it’s been slow and every year we’ve hit a speed bump,” said Mekael Teshome, an economist for PNC. “Because it’s been slow and it’s been bumpy, I think there’s this inherent skepticism.”

There is job growth happening, Teshome said. “It just hasn’t been robust. We expect to see continued moderate job growth,” he said.

Architectural Reclamation Inc. of Franklin is a small contracting company of five employees that does work on historical buildings.

“We’re hopeful that the economy is improving, but it’s a tough time to be in business,” said Susan Stewart, co-owner of the business with her husband Andy and his brother Bruce Stewart. “There’s not much new construction going on so we have a lot more competition.”

Many construction workers are out of jobs and a lot of the competition doesn’t have the same overhead expenses, such as workers compensation and health insurance, Stewart said.

“One good thing about the rough economy is people with older buildings have to maintain them,” she said. However, “people aren’t letting go of their money like they would if they were more confident about the economy.”

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