Business Climate Survey

Survey: Local Business Confidence Dips to Start 2019

May 17, 2019



Henry Fawell

Survey:  Local Business Confidence Dips to Start 2019


ROCKVILLE, MD (May 13, 2019) — Maryland businesses are reporting diminished growth in sales, revenue, and employment to start 2019. That is one new finding in the quarterly Maryland Business Climate Survey, a joint project between the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute and the nonpartisan Maryland Public Policy Institute.

The survey of more than 250 senior executives at Maryland businesses provides a unique quantitative glimpse into the sentiment of the state’s business leaders during the first quarter of 2019. Key findings include:

Declining optimism: While more than half (56 percent) of Maryland businesses expect their markets to grow, fewer firms are optimistic about market growth than in the fourth quarter of 2018, when 72 percent expected market growth. Further, forty-five percent of businesses surveyed expected to increase employment in the coming year, down from 53 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Lastly, forty-three percent of firms reported an increase in sales compared with the previous year, a decline from 57 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Improving Outlook in Baltimore City: Fifty-two percent of firms in Baltimore City had a positive view of the state’s business climate while 15 percent had a negative view of the business climate, the first time that Baltimore City firms were majority positive.

Declining Outlook in Washington Suburbs: Fifty percent of firms in the Washington suburbs had a positive view of the state’s business climate, down from 60 percent a year earlier.

Workforce Shortage Improving: Worker shortages appear to be mitigating somewhat, possibly as a result of reduced hiring activity. Throughout 2018, more than half of Maryland businesses surveyed reported difficulties finding workers with the skills necessary to fill specific job requirements. In the first quarter of 2019, this fell to 39 percent. 

Impact from Taxes: In the first quarter of 2019, 59 percent of businesses reported that taxes had some negative impact on their operations, down slightly from 63 percent from a year earlier.

“The bullish business outlook we saw throughout 2018 clearly slowed in the beginning of the new year,” said Richard Clinch, Ph.D., author of the survey and Executive Director of the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute. “While the majority of businesses report continued confidence at this time, the noticeable decline across key indicators bears watching from policymakers.”

“We are pleased to see a glimmer of momentum in Baltimore, where business confidence rose markedly in the first quarter of 2019,” said Christopher B. Summers, president and chief executive officer of the Institute. “Despite Baltimore’s current governance challenges, lowering the city’s property tax and regulatory burden would provide yet more confidence for job creators to invest in the city.”


Read the full survey findings and methodology at

About the Maryland Public Policy Institute: Founded in 2001, the Maryland Public Policy Institute is a nonpartisan public policy research and education organization that focuses on state policy issues. The Institute’s mission is to formulate and promote public policies at all levels of government based on principles of free enterprise, limited government, and civil society.  Learn more at

About the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute: The Jacob France Institute serves as a leading source of high-quality statistical information and research covering the interaction of business, worker, education, social service, community development, and government investment decisions.