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CEO Economic Outlook Index


Policy Recommendations Released as Coronavirus Developments Cause CEOs to Downgrade Plans and Expectations in Q1 2020 Economic Outlook Survey


In letters sent to President Donald J. Trump along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Business Roundtable today is urging lawmakers to take bold actions in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, outlining several policy recommendations to deliver economic security for all Americans, especially workers and small businesses.  

Doug McMillon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Walmart and Chairman of Business Roundtable, and Joshua Bolten, President & CEO of Business Roundtable, note in their letters that while CEOs have taken swift action to protect their employees and customers, the challenges created by this global pandemic will cause economic hardships for American families that need to be addressed by policymakers. 

“Unprecedented and necessary public health measures are having significant economic consequences, especially on small and medium-sized businesses and their employees, many of whom are suppliers and customers of Business Roundtable members,” wrote McMillon and Bolten. “Even as we stay focused on public health measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, Congress and the Administration will need to act quickly, in a bipartisan manner, to protect workers, businesses and the broader economy from the impacts of this health crisis. America’s largest employers are committed to working with lawmakers to deliver expeditiously the economic security Americans need during and after this health crisis.”

Among the measures outlined to contribute to a stronger and more rapid economic recovery during and coming out of this health crisis:

- Direct, significant payments to Americans who need them the most to ensure every family has the resources it needs to sustain themselves during the health crisis;

- Employee retention tax credits and a temporary employer payroll tax repeal to protect American jobs; 

- Creation of a substantial new Treasury credit facility for small and medium-sized businesses;

- Temporary delay in pension funding requirements, temporary restoration of net operating loss carrybacks and tariff relief to boost business liquidity; and

- Regulatory actions, common standards and facilitation measures to maintain supply chains and critical infrastructure.

The letter to President Trump can be found here. The letter to congressional leaders can be found here.

Today, Business Roundtable conducted its quarterly meeting of CEO members via teleconference to discuss coronavirus response efforts, including conversations with President Donald J. Trump, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric D. Hargan. The organization established the CEO COVID-19 Task Force earlier this month, with the group sharing information and coordinating with leaders in the Administration.  

Business Roundtable today also released the results of the Q1 2020 CEO Economic Outlook Survey – a composite of CEO plans for capital spending and hiring and expectations for sales over the next six months. With 138 CEOs responding, the first quarter 2020 survey was conducted between February 20 and March 10, 2020, a period that saw significant developments in the global spread of coronavirus that dominated the headlines during the last week the survey was in the field.  

While the Index decreased 4 points overall from last quarter to a value of 72.7, toward the end of the survey period, coronavirus developments led to a rapid reevaluation and sudden downgrading of CEO plans and expectations, with the Index reading significantly more negative, including all subcomponents (sales, capital investment and hiring). If taken alone, the survey results received from March 2 on would have likely reflected the steepest decline in CEO optimism since the 2008-2009 recession.

CEOs also projected 2.0 percent GDP growth for the U.S. in 2020, down 0.1 percent from their first estimate from last quarter. 

Added McMillon and Bolten:

"As we follow the developments of this health crisis, we will continue to offer policy recommendations to promote economic security and stability for American workers, families, communities and businesses of all sizes. Business Roundtable CEOs will continue to partner with you on the federal response and remain confident that our country can come together to meet the challenges created by this global pandemic.”

Survey Results

The Survey’s key findings from this quarter and the fourth quarter of 2019 include:

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 2020 survey was conducted between February 21 and March 10, 2020. Overall, 138 CEOs completed the survey.

Past Surveys

2020 Q1 Q2 Q3 2019 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2018 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2017 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2016 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2015 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2014 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2013 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2012 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2011 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2010 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2009 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2008 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 2007 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4