L.A. County employers are optimistic about their business outlook this year but guarded about future hiring, according to a new Los Angeles County Business Federation survey released Tuesday.

Nearly two-thirds of the survey’s 643 respondents expect business conditions will be either significantly or slightly better this year than last. But only 41 percent plan to hire this year; another 41 percent said they planned to keep staffing levels constant and 12 percent said they would lay off workers.

“These findings suggest that growth in our local economy over the last few years has buoyed the spirits of local employers,” said Tracy Hernandez, founding chief executive of the Business Federation, or BizFed. “However, it appears general optimism isn’t translating evenly into hiring people. Rather, employers are choosing a more cost certain investment in technology and equipment.”

The annual BizFed poll represents a snapshot of key issues of concern in the Los Angeles County business community. It is based on surveys of business owners and executives regarding the issues they deem most critical to the ongoing operation and growth of their business.

Employers reported their top five business concerns were taxes/fees, lengthy commute times, government regulation/compliance, education, and public infrastructure.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said an increase in the state minimum wage would force them to reduce employees and/or employee hours; 46 percent said it would have no impact. The majority of surveys were collected before Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law an increase in the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour for all employers by 2023.

BizFed represents more than 275,000 businesses that collectively employ 3 million workers across Los Angeles County.

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