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 Q1 CEO Economic Outlook Index Ticks Up Slightly, Remains Below Average as Inflation Concerns Persist

CEOs Express Concern About U.S. Fiscal Trajectory, Expectations for Below-Trend Growth Underscore Importance of Bipartisan Path Forward on Debt Ceiling, Pro-Growth Policies

Washington – Business Roundtable today released its Q1 2023 CEO Economic Outlook Survey, a composite index of CEO plans for capital spending and employment and expectations for sales over the next six months. The overall Index slightly increased six points from last quarter to 79, as the economy continues to navigate numerous headwinds. The results mark the third consecutive quarter at or below the long-run average of 84 and above the expansion or contraction threshold of 50. This quarter’s survey was in the field from February 8 through March 8, 2023, before the Silicon Valley Bank crisis. Overall, 141 CEOs completed the survey.

In their second estimate of 2023 U.S. GDP growth, CEOs projected 1.4% growth for the year. Additionally, in a special question posed this quarter, 71% of CEOs said they were either very concerned or moderately concerned about the current trajectory of U.S. debt.

“This quarter’s survey reflects continued caution resulting from high inflation and the policy measures the Federal Reserve is implementing to bring it under control,” said Mary Barra, General Motors Chair and CEO and Business Roundtable Chair. “Business leaders look forward to working with policymakers to promote policies that stimulate growth, investment and expanded opportunity across the country.”

“While the U.S. economy remains resilient, CEOs are cautiously approaching the next six months,” said Joshua Bolten, Business Roundtable CEO. “Our members have been clear that the full faith and credit of the United States should not be put at risk and that we should take steps to address growing deficits and debt. We encourage the White House and Congress to find a bipartisan path forward that takes default off the table and begins to put our fiscal house in order.”

The three subindices were as follows:

  • Plans for hiring increased 4 points to a value of 65.
  • Plans for capital investment decreased 1 point to a value of 67.
  • Expectations for sales increased 13 points to a value of 104.

This quarter’s results reflect a continued reduction in CEO plans for capital spending, with modest increases in expectations for sales and hiring for the next six months. Though the overall index ticked up slightly, CEOs’ expectations for below-trend economic growth in the short term are consistent with continuing concerns about inflation and how high interest rates may rise, as well as ongoing geopolitical tensions.

Business Roundtable urges policymakers to help strengthen the economy by reaching bipartisan agreement on a path forward to raise the debt ceiling and advancing pro-growth policies. Those policies include maintaining and improving the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, avoiding burdensome regulations and modernizing the permitting reform system for energy infrastructure projects.

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. These indices are diffusion indices that range between -50 and 150—where readings at 50 or above indicate economic expansion, and readings below 50 indicate 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 diffusion indices here are then normalized by adding 50 to the result.

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