Monday, July 8, 2019

Economic Outlook Falls After Second Quarter. CEOs Most Concerned About Business Cycle, Political Polarization & Trade Wars

Read Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage >


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 Virginia CEO Economic Outlook Survey. 

The second quarter 2019 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs finds that Virginia CEOs’ expectations for sales, capital spending, and employment over the next six months fell compared to their expectations last quarter. Overall, expectations at the end of the second quarter were similar to those from Q1 and Q2 of 2018. 

Uncertainty around the effects of tariffs and continuing workforce challenges seem to be tempering small business CEOs’ confidence in the future,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. “That said, 70% of those surveyed expect growth in the next six months, so I would rate this as a positive outlook.”

“CEOs seem to expect a slowdown in the future, but see the current economy as relatively strong,” Randy Raggio, Associate Dean at the Robins School of Business. Raggio administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. He adds, “The percentages of CEOs who expect decreases in sales, capital spending and hiring is nearly identical to last quarter. The real change is in those who expect to stay the course vs. grow.”

The following survey results from the first and second quarters of 2019 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Economic Index Historical Data

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



CEOs were asked to select the single issue that has them most concerned about the economic outlook for the future. Nearly 30% of CEOs are most concerned about a slowdown in the economy as part of the normal business cycle (29.73%), 20.27% are concerned about the impact of political polarization, and 13.51% chose trade wars. 

With the potential for increased tariffs on Chinese and Mexican imports, CEOs were asked how tariffs would impact their business.

  • More than half of CEOs indicated a somewhat (43.24%) or large (13.51%) negative impact of tariffs on Chinese imports
  • 43.24% indicating no impact (Chinese tariffs)
  • More than 30% of CEOs indicated a somewhat (29.73%) or large (2.7%) negative impact of tariffs on Mexican imports
  • 67.57% indicating no impact (Mexican tariffs)
  • No CEOs indicated any positive impact of tariffs on imports from either country


  • More than 70 percent expect an increase in sales (down more than seven percentage points from the last quarter) 
  • Nearly 38 percent expect capital spending to increase (up 1.7 points from last quarter)
  • More than 52 percent of respondents expect employment to increase over the next six months (down nearly 12 points from the last quarter)
  • Seventy-four CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered June 18-25
  • Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance, insurance, and retail 
  • The average company revenue (most recent 12-month period): $16.5 million
  • The average employment count: 64


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 2:22 pm

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