Lehigh Valley business sentiment highest since 2007

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce -Kamran Afshar survey of the Valley businesses is a quarterly survey that has been conducted since 1998. In April 2018. The business sentiment index in the Valley rose to its highest level since 2007!

The index of hiring plans for the next 6 months with an increase of 6.9% over its January 2018 level recorded the largest increase among indicators in the model. Employment in the last 6 months also recorded a significant increase in the April survey. The purchasing indices, however, both showed small increases in 2018, while remaining below their April 2017 levels.

The index of hiring plans for the next 6 months spiked to 69.9 in April, its highest level since July of 1999! This index is now at the top of the range which is historically associated with rapid employment growth in the Valley.

The index of actual hiring over the last 6 months also recorded a significant increase in April 2018, exceeding its April 2017 level by 7.1%. This index is also in range associated with rapid employment growth in the Valley.

Valley businesses participating in the survey have reduced their layoff rates to below their boom years level during 2004 through 2006. A data point which is directly supported by the decline in the number of initial unemployment claims which has now dropped to tight labor market level for the Valley.

The index for actual purchases over the last 6 months while increasing during the last two quarters, is still below its last year’s level and is trending flat. The rapid increase in purchasing during the first 2 quarters of last year appears to have been mostly due to post election enthusiasm. Many of the same businesses have cut back their rate of expansion.

One of the surprising results of our surveys is the observation that the percent of local businesses which had reported increases in their revenues dropped well below its January 2018 level and is at a statistical tie with its April 2017.  Also, of concern is the drop of the index of expected future revenues to below its April 2017 level.

The lower corporate and personal income taxes have moved from the roam of expectation to reality. The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill or anything resembling that is still an expectation. And while we will see increases in consumer and corporate expenditures, at least, through the middle of summer, its sustainability beyond that is being debated. It is however, very clear that the current tax breaks, will cause higher deficits, at the very least, early on. Since the labor market is at full employment level, and deficit is rising rapidly, inflation and higher interest rates are not far behind.

Announcing the Kamran Afshar Data Analytics Center at DeSales University

DeSales University has joined forces with Dr. Kamran Afshar, a leading economist, on a groundbreaking new data analytics center that will put students at the forefront of research and consulting.

The Kamran Afshar Data Analytics Center at DeSales University  (KADAC) will open in January 2018 in the Gambet Center for Business and Healthcare.

“It is an educational entity,” says Afshar, president of Kamran Afshar Associates, Inc. “It is there to get the students involved in data analytics as it impacts real-life events. We will have heavy student involvement in the process.”

The center will provide paid internships for undergraduate students to conduct research and consulting projects under the guidance of Afshar and select faculty members.

Prospective clients will include banks, retailers, and housing and real estate developers, as well as local and state governments. Students will work real-world client projects — everything from customer satisfaction surveys and business purchasing intentions to economic impact analyses. But the list doesn’t end there.

Afshar also plans to partner with different academic departments and divisions across the University, including healthcare, education, and criminal justice for starters.

“The synergy of working cross disciplines will manifest itself in a variety of different ways,” he says. “This partnership will benefit all stakeholders – business clients, students, the extended Lehigh Valley community, local government bodies, and others. The data analytics field is not limited to one functional discipline; we are only limited by our imagination.”

Not only will Dr. Afshar bring his expertise to the center, he’ll have decades’ worth of data on consumer prices, business sentiment, and more. He’ll also return to the classroom to teach — beginning with a course on predictive analytics — one of his favorite subjects.

“This partnership is going to separate us from others,” says Dr. David Gilfoil, director of the MBA program. “We’ve done our homework and looked at some of the offerings of other universities and colleges. Yes, they have data analytics courses and certificates, but our Data Analytics Center is the only one with Kamran Afshar – he is our crown jewel. We are blessed and excited to have his passion, expertise, and data analytics know-how focused on serving our students, clients, and community.”

According to Afshar, the need for data analytics will only continue to grow as the workforce evolves and things like self-driving cars, package-delivering drones, and robo-physicians become commonplace.

“The way we’re going to train people for the workforce 20 years from now will be totally different,” Afshar says. “Big data analyses will show us critical trends, how they are changing, and how those changes will impact different sectors of the economy.”