Business confidence in Massachusetts rose slightly in March, AIM says

This graphic was included with AIM’s press release.
This graphic was included with AIM’s press release.

A business confidence index for Massachusetts posted a 51.1 reading in March, up slightly from a reading of 50 the previous month as local employers continue to fret about “deadlocked politics” in Washington, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts said Tuesday.

The association, also known as AIM, represents the state’s employers, and it has maintained the monthly Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index since 1991.

The index uses a 100-point scale. A reading above 50 represents an optimistic outlook among the state’s employers, a reading below 50 a negative one. A reading of 50 indicates a neutral outlook. The March 2013 reading on AIM’s index was 50.1.

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Raymond G. Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors, commented on the index’s March 2014 reading in a statement.

“Business confidence in Massachusetts has been in neutral range for a year, dipping below neutral when there was a threat of federal default and when the government shut down in October, but otherwise with not much upside,” Torto said.

Torto cited several reasons for the index’s generally flat performance.

“One is a generally negative view of national conditions, attributable in part to deadlocked politics,” Torto said. “The confidence numbers are persistently low in relation to the actual performance of the economy. Another, as we noted last month, is particularly weak confidence among small employers, who face severe competitive pressures and feel the weight of regulatory burdens. Finally, hiring trends are built into our index, and among employers participating in our survey, the ability to contribute to job creation has been less hearty than might be expected during a recovery period.”

The index twice hit an all-time high of 68.5, first in 1997 and again in 998. The index’s all-time low was 33.3 in February 2009.