Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Virginia Economic Outlook Index Back to Pre-COVID Level in Q3 2021; Employers Hesitant to Require Return to In-Person Work

CEOs expect sales, capital spending, and employment to increase over next 6 months

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 quarter 2021 CEO Economic Outlook survey finds that the Index is back to pre-COVID level and that employers are hesitant to require return to in-person work. Additionally, CEOs expect sales, capital spending, and employment to increase over next 6 months. 

Robins School of Business/VA Council of CEOs Economic Survey Historical Data

YEARQ1Q2Q3Q4
2021102.8094.6102.20
2020 -18.73*50.4365.2069.20
2019100.594.1386.33101.47
201894.6092.73104.3097.97
2017108.97* 103.6399.17106.30
2016102.0089.0089.67107.37
201593.9093.4299.8092.67
201486.0788.7196.1095.92
201386.4091.6092.5389.57
201294.1081.1381.1777.57
201185.6374.1781.1788.63
201081.3394.4792.27
*historic high/low

“These CEOs are expressing a pre-pandemic level of optimism. That is in spite of the significant headwinds of workforce challenges and supply chain disruptions” said Scot McRoberts, Executive Director of VACEOs. “That’s good news for all of us.”

“The survey results suggest that CEOs are optimistic about the next six months, particularly with respect to predicted sales and employment,” said Rich Boulger, Associate Dean at the Robins School. Boulger administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. He adds, “The overall index has returned to the levels experienced for several quarters pre-COVID. Specifically, the index has increased from 94.6 to 102.2 this quarter.”

SUMMARY: SALES, CAPITAL SPENDING, HIRING

Nearly 70% of CEOs expect sales to increase over the next six months and many will not require a return to in-person work just yet. These were two data points of the latest quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs.

The survey also found expectations over the next six months for sales, capital spending, and employment are positive compared with expectations at the end of Q2 2021

SALES EXPECTATIONS

More than half (68%) of CEOs indicated that they expect sales to increase over the next six months. 

  • 13% expected sales to be “significantly higher.”
  • 55% expected sales to be “higher.” 
  • 8% expected sales to be “lower.”
  • 2% expected sales to be “significantly lower.” 
  • 23% indicated they expected no change.

CAPITAL SPENDING EXPECTATIONS

  • 47% of CEOs expect capital spending to increase over the next six months (compared with 36% last quarter)
  • 8% expect capital spending to decrease.
  • 45% expect capital spending to remain flat.  

EMPLOYMENT EXPECTATIONS

  • 60% of respondent CEOs expect employment to increase over the next six months.
  • 38% expect employment to remain flat 
  • 2% expect employment to fall.  

Taken as a whole, the results pertaining to sales, capital spending and employment are positive producing a slight increase in the economic outlook (102.2 versus 94.6) relative to the results from the end of Q2 2021.  

WILL EMPLOYEES BE REQUIRED TO RETURN TO WORK? 

The survey asked CEOs to also express their plans, if any, to require employees to return to work in-person if they had worked in-person prior to the pandemic. Their response regarding returning to in-person work was as follows:

  • Yes (will require those in-person pre-COVID to return to in-person): 24%
  • No (will NOT require those in-person pre-COVID to return to in-person): 45%
  • Unclear at this time: 31%

Additionally, CEOs were asked what percentage of your workforce will be working remotely relative to pre-COVID.  Their response was as follows:

  • A higher percentage will be working remotely: 32%
  • No change in the percentage working remotely: 47%
  • A lower percentage will be working remotely: 21%

SURVEY SAMPLE

  • 53 CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered October 5–11, 2021 
  • Multiple industries are represented in the sample, although services, retail and construction represented the majority of the respondents
  • The average company revenue (most recent 12-month period): $16 million
  • The average employment count: 80

The following survey results show projections for the next six months for sales, capital spending, and employment.

Robins School of Business/VA Council of CEOs Q3 2021 Economic Survey Results

About the Economic Survey

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. Rich Boulger, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.


About Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs)

Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) is a nonprofit organization connecting CEOs for learning and growth. Formed more than 20 years ago, member benefits include placement in a peer roundtable group and access to a thought leader network, and a robust program of events for learning and growth. This is not a networking group, but rather a group of CEO peers who are invested in the success of each member. To qualify for membership CEOs must run a business with $1M+ revenue and 5+FTEs. Learn more at www.vaceos.org.

About Robins School of Business

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 a wide variety of businesses.

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