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 Q4 CEO Economic Index Reflects a Stable but Cooling U.S. Economy 

CEOs Cite Labor Costs as Highest Cost Pressure, Say Eliminating Burdensome Regulations, Maintaining and Improving Tax System Key to Promoting Growth in 2024 

Washington – Business Roundtable today released its Q4 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 ticked up a modest two points from last quarter to 74 but remained below its historic average of 84. CEOs continue to moderate their plans for capital investment, while plans for hiring are up from last quarter and expectations for sales for the next six months increased modestly.

“America’s largest employers are deeply committed to working with Congress and the Administration to ensure our economy remains resilient. Business Roundtable members continue to support policies that strengthen the economy, generate growth and expand economic opportunity for more Americans,” said Business Roundtable Chair Mary Barra, Chair and CEO of General Motors.  

“The results of this quarter’s survey are consistent with an economy that is cooling and the Federal Reserve’s strategy to bring inflation back to target,” said Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten. “With the decrease in plans for capital investment, it is critical that Congress restore provisions to support investment, including immediate expensing for R&D, full expensing of investments in new equipment, machinery and technology and a more sensible business interest deduction. We urge Congress to restore these policies as soon as possible to increase domestic investment, create American jobs and strengthen U.S. competitiveness.”

The Survey’s three subindices were as follows:

  • Plans for hiring increased 10 points to a value of 55.
  • Plans for capital investment decreased 7 points to a value of 62.
  • Expectations for sales increased 2 points to a value of 105.

In their first estimate of 2024 U.S. GDP growth, CEOs projected 1.9% growth for the year.

Additionally, in a question posed every fourth quarter since 2003, CEOs were asked to identify the greatest cost pressure facing their company. Fifty-two percent of CEOs identified labor costs as the top cost pressure for the seventh consecutive year. Nineteen percent selected regulatory costs as their top cost pressure, a six-year high, and 14% of respondents identified material costs.

In a special question posed this quarter, CEOs were also asked to choose important policy priorities for promoting U.S. economic growth in 2024. Nearly 80% of CEOs identified eliminating burdensome regulations as important to growth, and 65% identified maintaining and improving the U.S. tax system.

This quarter’s survey was in the field from November 20 through December 6, 2023. In total, 141 CEOs completed the survey.

Summary table of 2023 Q4 survey resultsClick the table to zoom in.

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.

Past Surveys