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December 3, 2018

Global trade war has had limited impact in MetroWest

Photo | Grant Welker TJX, with main offices in Framingham and Marlborough, is among MetroWest's largest employers. The region's employers are showing faith in MetroWest's economy.

More than half of MetroWest employers say they've felt no effects from global tariffs and just 9 percent said they felt a moderate negative effect, according to a new survey.

The survey, which also asked employers about challenges facing MetroWest, was conducted by Framingham State University researchers in collaboration with the 495/MetroWest Partnership, The MetroWest Daily News, The Milford Daily News and Framingham State University.

The survey found stable optimism, with 65 percent saying they expected the MetroWest economy to improve slightly or significantly in the next year. Only roughly 12 percent said they expected the economy to decline.

Just over half of employers — 56 percent — said they expect to hire additional staff in the coming year. That number beats last year's answer of 48 percent, and lower rates when the question was also asked in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

In another sign of optimism, only 8 percent said they expect revenues to decline in the year ahead.

A question about tariffs showed MetroWest businesses have largely been spared by a trade war that has increased costs for certain products. In all, 55 percent said they've felt no effect, and another 14 percent reported only a slight negative effect. Among employers, 7 percent said they've even seen a positive effect from the tariffs.

The survey, whose results were released Friday, asked employers about challenges facing MetroWest. Labor and health care costs, along with a skills gap among applicants, were the top answers.

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