The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™ in collaboration with The Business Council stands at 32 to start Q4 2022, down from 34 in Q3. The Measure fell deeper into negative territory, to lows not seen since the depths of the Great Recession. (A reading below 50 points reflects more negative than positive responses.) A total of 136 CEOs participated in the Q4 survey, which was fielded between September 19 and October 3.
The recent survey asked CEOs to describe the economic conditions they are preparing to face over the next 12-18 months. An overwhelming majority—98%—said they were preparing for a US recession. Moreover, 99% of CEOs said they were preparing for an EU recession.
“CEO confidence sunk further to start Q4 and is at its lowest level since the Great Recession,” said Dana M. Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “CEOs’ view of current conditions as well as their expectations deteriorated: only 5% reported business conditions were better today than they were six months ago, and the same proportion—just 5%—expected conditions to improve over the next six months. However, despite expectations of slower growth, tight labor market conditions and wage pressures persist, while hiring plans remained robust.”
“CEOs are now preparing for near-inevitable recessions in both the US and Europe,” said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., Vice Chairman of The Business Council and Trustee of The Conference Board. “While the vast majority still expect the US recession to be short and shallow, nearly 7 in 10 believe the EU will enter a deep recession with serious global spillovers. At the same time, CEOs continue to experience inflationary pressures, with 59% reporting input costs over the past three months remained the same or rose with no easing expected by year-end. Moreover, at the start of Q4, only 19% reported an increase in demand over the past three months—down from 38% in in Q3.”
CEOs’ assessment of general economic conditions deteriorated further to start Q4:
- About 5% of CEOs reported economic conditions were better compared to six months ago, compared to 6% in Q3.
- 81% said conditions were worse, up from 77%.
CEOs remained pessimistic about conditions in their own industries to start Q4:
- 15% of CEOs reported that conditions in their industries were better compared to six months ago, down from 25%.
- 52% said conditions in their own industries were worse, up from 48%.
CEOs’ expectations about the short-term economic outlook weakened to start Q4:
- Just 5% of CEOs said they expected economic conditions to improve over the next six months, down from 7% in Q3.
- 74% expected conditions to worsen, up from 73%.
CEOs’ expectations regarding short-term prospects in their own industries also weakened to start Q4:
- 19% of CEOs expected conditions in their own industry to improve over the next six months, down from 20%.
- 54% expect conditions to worsen, up from 48%.
Employment, Recruiting, Wages, and Capital Spending
- Employment: 44% of CEOs expect to expand their workforce over the next 12 months, down from 50% in Q3
- Hiring Qualified People: 68% of CEOs report some problems attracting qualified workers, down from 73%. Of those, 39% report difficulties that cut across the organization, rather than concentrated in a few key areas—down from 44% in Q3.
- Wages: 85% of CEOs expect to increase wages by 3% or more over the next year, down from 89% in Q3.
- Capital Spending: 86% of CEOs expect their capital budgets to increase or remain the same over the next year, versus 82% in Q3.
US Recession Outlook:
The overwhelming majority of CEOs are preparing for a US recession over the next 12-18 months. However, expectations remain that it will be a brief and shallow recession with limited global spillover.
EU Recession Outlook:
The majority of CEOs are preparing for an EU recession over the next 12-18 months. Close to 7 out of 10 CEOs anticipate a deep recession with material global spillover, while 3 out of 10 expect a brief and shallow recession with limited global spillover.
Changes in Demand:
About 20% of CEOs said demand for their company’s products and/or services increased over the past 3 months, down from 38% in the prior survey. An additional 54% said demand remained about the same, up from 38% in the last survey.
Changes in Cost Pressures:
Close to 60% of CEOs said input costs over the past 3 months remained the same or rose with no easing expected by year-end, little changed from the prior survey. Thirty percent expressed similar sentiment about cost pressures but expected some easing by year-end. Only 8% said costs eased but not significantly enough to pass along savings to customers/consumers.
More than 33% of CEOs said the biggest global challenge facing their company by year-end will be political and governmental instability. Energy access and energy security were a distant second.