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Trade war effects on hiring and investing for next quarter


Nearly half of business owners who planned to increase hiring last quarter don’t plan to do so next quarter.

That’s the topline result from a new UBS survey showing that ongoing trade tensions could weaken the health of the labor market. Job growth fell short of expectations in August, and only 13% of business owners said they would plan to increase hiring if current trade concerns are maintained for the next six months.

According to UBS, only 25% of US business owners plan to increase hiring, as compared to 46% last quarter. The 500 business owners surveyed for this latest release in the UBS Investor Watch Pulse series had at least $250k in annual revenue and at least one employee other than themselves.

Read more: The chief strategist at a $1 trillion investing giant says Trump is doomed to lose his trade war — and explains why that would be the best possible outcome for markets

Here’s what the survey tells us about the attitudes of business owners towards the trade war and the trajectory of their own businesses:

  • Most of the business owners surveyed want the trade war to end— a majority (60%) want to ramp down the trade war after China has ceded some ground, or end it entirely.
  • Close to 70% think that the impact of the trade war so far has been negative for the US and global economies.
  • Yet only 24% see it as negatively impacting their own businesses.
  • This suggests that their overwhelmingly positive outlook on the economy (60%) and their own businesses (75%) is justified.

In terms of effects on future investments, more business owners plan to decrease business investments if the trade war continues: 11% say they would increase investments versus 15% who would decrease them. Even in immediate plans, the percent of business owners who are preparing to invest more has decreased by 12 percentage points: from 36% last quarter to 24% for the next quarter.

The survey results contrast with messages from the White House stating that the trade war has had minimal effects on the economy. Job cuts this year, however, indicate that trade difficulties have already made a mark on employees across the country: 53,480 jobs were cut in August, which is nearly 40% higher than cuts in July of this year, and August of last year.


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