Monday, July 13, 2020

As Virginia Moves into Phase 3, Economic Outlook Improves

For the first time since December, more CEOs expect sales to increase over the next six months than expect sales to fall.

Read Richmond-Times 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 third edition of this special survey found finds that expectations over the next six months for sales, capital spending, and employment all improved compared with expectations at the end of May. 

More than half of CEOs (57 percent) indicated that compared with their expectations for their businesses at the end of May, the last month has been “about as expected.” More than 28 percent reported it to be “much better than expected,” while about 15 percent reported “much worse than expected.”

Economic Index Historical Data

YearQuarter 1Quarter 2Quarter 3Quarter 4
2020 (May 27)26.2
2020 (April 27)-1.33
2020-18.73 (historic low)
2017108.97 (historic high)103.6399.17106.3


“The dramatic rebound of this index, from minus 18 to plus 54, reflects the nature of these entrepreneurs. CEOs of small and mid-sized Virginia businesses have been resilient and creative in adapting to a tremendously difficult business environment,” says Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. Adding, “We certainly are not out of the woods yet, but these data are a good sign.”

“Survey results over the past four months indicate a positive and steady increase in economic outlook.” said said Randy Raggio, Associate Dean at the Robins School of Business. Raggio administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. He adds, “With the move to Phase 3 on July 1, companies will have more opportunity to participate in the recovery.”

“These positive results are very welcome news at a time when stress from the continuing uncertainty is taking a toll on employees and business owners,” said Mickey Quiñones, dean of the Robins School. Adding, “They show that the hard work and sacrifices being made by many are making a difference in the performance of Virginia businesses.”


  • More than 78 percent expect to continue to operate without significant layoffs. Only about 10 percent expect significant layoffs, while about 11 percent are uncertain at this time.  
  • About 54 percent of CEOs whose workforce has shifted to work-from-home report that productivity is “about the same.” A little more than 8 percent rate it “much better,” while about 15 percent rate it “much worse.”
  • More than 40 percent expect that compared with their workforce in January, more employees will work from home after the crisis is over, while about 45 percent expect “about the same” number will work from home.    
  • Although more than 32 percent of CEOs indicate that Virginia’s timetable for reopening the state is “about right,” more than 16 percent find it “a little too slow” and about 24 percent rate it “way too slow.” About 24 percent rate it “a little too fast,” and less than 3 percent rate it “way too fast.”    


This month found that executives’ expectations pertaining to sales, capital spending, and employment represent improvements in economic outlook over results from the end of May.


2020 Q2 Economic Outlook Survey by VA Council of CEOs and Robins School of Business

To summarize, CEOs predictions over the next six months at the end of June include:

  • 43.2 percent of CEOs expect sales to increase over the next six months and 17.6 percent expect double-digit increases. But nearly 38 percent expect sales to decline, and 20.3 percent expect a double-digit decline. Roughly 19 percent expect sales to remain flat.  
  • Nearly 37 percent of CEOs expect capital spending to decrease over the next six months (compared with 52 percent last month), while more than 20 percent expect capital spending to increase. More than 43 percent expect capital spending to remain flat.  
  • More than half (52.7 percent) of respondent CEOs expect employment to remain flat over the next six months. But nearly 30 percent expect employment to increase.  Almost 18 percent expect employment to fall.
  • Eighty-two CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered June 23 – 28.
  • Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance and retail.
  • The average company revenue (most recent 12-month period): $12.8 million.
  • The average employment count: 53.


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 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


The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit association whose mission is to connect the CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses for learning and growth. The Council is led by a volunteer board of directors, advisory board and a small staff. Currently, there are more than 200 CEO members, mainly in Richmond and Charlottesville. Learn more at


The Robins School of Business is  the only fully accredited, highly-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a highly-ranked liberal arts university. U.S. News ranks the Robins School’s MBA program #2 in Virginia. The school’s executive education division offers customized training and consulting to area businesses.

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