Thursday, January 10, 2019

CEO economic outlook declines slightly; CEOs weigh in on makeup of next congress


Each quarter the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) and University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business partner to take the pulse of top executives in the region through a comprehensive “Economic Outlook Survey.”

The fourth quarter 2018 CEO Economic Outlook survey finds that Virginia CEOs’ expectations for sales and capital spending over the next six months fell compared to their expectations last quarter, while expectations for increased employment rose.  Overall, expectations at the end of the year remained higher than their expectations in the first and second quarters of the year.

“In all industries and sectors, the CEOs I work with report that demand remains very high. Most don’t expect a recession until 2020,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs.

“The survey shows that CEOs remain positive on the economy,”  said Randy Raggio, Associate Dean at the Robins School of Business. Raggio administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. He adds, “Despite recent drops in the stock market, most see strong demand and expect 2019 to be profitable.”


Last quarter, CEOs were asked how a Democratic takeover of Congress would impact the outlook for their business over the next 12 months. This quarter, with the results of the mid-term elections known, CEOs were asked what impact the new makeup of Congress would have on their outlook for the next 12 months. Although the questions were not identical, it appears that regional CEOs prefer the makeup of the upcoming Congress to one where Democrats control both chambers. Results are portrayed in the table below.

December 2018 September 2018
Large positive impact 3% 8%
Somewhat positive impact 12% 13%
No impact 44% 24%
Somewhat negative impact 35% 32%
Large negative impact 5% 23%


The survey’s index, which measures executives’ views on projected hiring, capital spending and sales over the next six months, found that expectations for employment rose from last quarter. More than 60 percent of respondent CEOs expect employment to increase over the next six months, up nearly 3 percentage points from the third quarter survey. An executive summary of survey results is below.


  • More than 60 percent expect employment to increase (up 3 percentage points from last quarter)
  • Seventy-one percent of CEO respondents expect sales to increase (down 8 points from last quarter)
  • Expectations for capital spending fell from last quarter. Thirty-three percent of CEOs expect capital spending to increase (down nearly nine percentage points from last quarter)
  • 91 CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered December 17-21
  • Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance and retail
  • The average company revenue (most recent 12-month period): $10.5 million
  • The average employment: 55

Economic Index Historical Data

YearQuarter 1Quarter 2Quarter 3Quarter 4
2020-18.73 (historic low)
2017108.97 (historic high)103.6399.17106.3



The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which regularly asks about expectations for sales, capital spending and employment, plus other relevant issues, helping Virginia companies anticipate business conditions and plan for growth. The Robins School adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally. Randy Raggio, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.

>>Read Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage.


The Council continues to expand the survey beyond its members, offering any area business owners whose companies gross at least $1 million in annual revenue the opportunity to participate. If enough businesses participate, the Council will provide survey results by industry. Participation is free, and all participants will receive copies of the survey data.

Business owners and CEOs who would like to participate in the next survey should contact Scot McRoberts at

Posted by Staff at 10:54 am
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