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CEO Confidence at Highest Levels since 2004
06 Apr. 2017
The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™, which had rebounded sharply in the fourth quarter of 2016, increased again in the first quarter of 2017. The Measure now reads 68, up from 65 in the final quarter of 2016 (a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses).
“CEO Confidence improved further in early 2017, propelling the measure to its highest reading in nearly 13 years,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “CEOs were considerably more optimistic about short-term growth prospects in the U.S., and to a lesser degree, about prospects in other mature and emerging markets. Hiring plans have picked up compared to last year, with nearly two-thirds of CEOs anticipating an increase in employment levels in their industry. However, 40 percent say finding qualified workers is a major obstacle to hiring.”
CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions improved further, with 71 percent saying conditions were better compared to six months ago, up from 59 percent in the final quarter of 2016. Business leaders were also considerably more positive in their assessment of current conditions in their own industries. Now, 60 percent state conditions in their own industries have improved versus 46 percent in the fourth quarter.
CEOs’ optimism regarding the short-term outlook for the economy eased slightly, but remains rather strong. Currently, 65 percent expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, compared to approximately 67 percent last quarter. The outlook for their own industries, however, was more favorable, with 67 percent of CEOs anticipating an improvement over the next six months, up from 58 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
CEOs’ assessment of current conditions improved across the board, with sentiment for Europe and the United States experiencing the biggest increases. CEOs’ appraisal of conditions in China, Japan, India and Brazil also improved, and all measures are now in positive territory.
CEOs’ short-term expectations for mature and emerging markets also improved, with CEOs the most optimistic about growth prospects in the U.S.
Hiring Plans Improve in 2017, But Finding Qualified Workers is a Challenge
About two-thirds of CEOs surveyed anticipate an increase in employment levels in their industry over the course of this year, while less than one out of ten anticipates a decrease. When this question was asked in 2016, less than 30 percent of CEOs surveyed anticipated an increase in employment levels, and about 40 percent anticipated a decrease.
On a separate question, CEOs cited finding qualified workers as the largest obstacle to hiring. Regulation and litigation came in second, followed by health care costs at a distant third. Wage and salary costs, as well as other fringe benefits, are of much lesser concern when hiring new workers.
Results are from surveys fielded from mid-February to mid-March 2017
Source: CEO Confidence Survey 1st Quarter 2017
The Conference Board
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