CEO Economic Outlook Index

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index is based on a survey — conducted quarterly since the fourth quarter of 2002 — of our member CEOs’ plans for hiring and capital spending, and their expectations for sales, over the next six months. Taking these factors together, the survey signals the direction of the U.S. economy.

Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index Softens, Remains Above Historical Average


CEO Plans Remain Solid but Slightly Diminished Amid Uncertain Prospects for Global Growth 

Business Roundtable today released its Q1 2019 CEO Economic Outlook Index – a composite of CEO expectations for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months. While the Index eased in the first quarter, potentially reflecting uncertainty about softening global growth, CEO plans remained historically strong.

The CEO Economic Outlook Index decreased to 95.2 in the first quarter of 2019, a decrease of 9.2 points from the previous quarter. Despite this decrease, the Index surpassed its historical average of 82.4. This marks the ninth consecutive quarter where the Index has exceeded the historical average, signaling a continued positive direction for the U.S. economy.

All three components of the Index decreased in the first quarter but remained above their historical averages:

  • CEO plans for hiring decreased 11.3 points to 80.4, which ranks among the top 10 highest values for the employment sub-index in the survey’s 16-year history.
  • Plans for capital investment decreased 6.9 points to 91, which is among the top third of all values of the capital spending sub-index.
  • Expectations for sales decreased 9.6 points to 114, which is above the historical average for the sales sub-index.

In their second estimate of 2019 U.S. GDP growth, CEOs projected 2.5 percent growth for the year, down from their 2.7 percent estimate in the previous quarter.

Jamie Dimon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Chairman of Business Roundtable, said: “Business leaders’ plans for capital investment and hiring remain strong, a sign of continued confidence in the American economy amid easing global growth forecasts. To maintain U.S. economic progress going forward, Congress and the Administration should focus on policies to support a thriving economy and greater opportunity for all Americans, such as expanding free and fair trade, investing in infrastructure and workforce training, enacting a national innovation agenda and pursuing comprehensive immigration reform.”
Joshua Bolten, Business Roundtable President & CEO, added: “The economic outlook of Business Roundtable CEOs remains solid. Smart policies on tax reform and regulation have stimulated substantial hiring and business investment in the U.S. over recent months. As we encounter a potential softening of global economic conditions, it’s all the more important to advance policies that will promote American innovation and strengthen the U.S. economy for the long term.”

In the Q1 2019 survey, CEOs responded strongly on the need for federal action to address consumer data privacy issues. With the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation in effect and more than a dozen privacy bills advancing across U.S. states, 80 percent of CEOs said it was “somewhat” or “very” important for Congress to enact a national consumer privacy law.

The strong CEO response on consumer privacy underscores the wide agreement among business leaders that federal legislative action is urgently needed to establish and protect core consumer privacy rights, promote innovation and reduce regulatory fragmentation. All three of these crucial objectives are addressed in the Business Roundtable consumer data privacy framework released in December 2018.

Added Bolten: “As this survey makes clear, enacting a national consumer privacy law is a top priority for business leaders. Business Roundtable urges lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to make this a priority as well. Both consumers and businesses need a consistent set of data privacy rules that support innovation, safeguard consumer rights and reduce regulatory complexity.”

Survey Results

The survey’s key findings from this quarter and the fourth quarter of 2018 include:

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About the Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Survey

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly since the fourth quarter of 2002, provides a forward-looking view of the economy by Business Roundtable member CEOs. The survey is designed to provide a picture of the future direction of the U.S. economy by asking CEOs to report their company’s expectations for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months. The data are used to create the Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index and sub-indices for sales, capex and hiring expectations. These indices are diffusion indices that range between -50 and 150 — where readings at 50 or above indicate an economic expansion, and readings below 50 indicate an economic contraction. A diffusion index is defined as the percentage of respondents who report that a measure will increase, minus the percentage who report that the measure will decrease.

The first quarter 2019 survey was conducted between February 20 and March 8, 2019. Overall, 139 CEOs completed the survey. Results of this and all previous surveys are available at brt.org/resources/ceo-survey.

Past Surveys

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