Monday, January 31, 2022

Virginia Economic Outlook Index Remains Near Pre-COVID Level in Q4 2021; Most Employers Feel Impact of Omicron Surge

CEOs Expect Sales and Employment to Increase Over Next 6 Months with Capital Spending Nearly Flat

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 fourth quarter 2021 CEO Economic Outlook survey finds that the Index remains near pre-COVID level and that most employers are feeling the impact of the Omicron surge. Additionally, CEOs expect sales and employment to increase over next 6 months with capital spending nearly flat. 

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

2020 -18.73*50.4365.2069.20
2017108.97* 103.6399.17106.30
*historic high/low

“The survey results suggest that CEOs continue to be optimistic about the next six months, particularly with respect to predicted sales and employment. The overall index has returned to the levels just slightly below that experienced for several quarters pre-COVID,” said Rich Boulger, associate dean at the Robins School, who administers the survey and collects the responses. “Specifically, the index is currently 93.7 versus the average of 99.2 in the 13 quarters prior to Q1 2020.”

“I’ve heard from many CEOs that the Omicron surge is making it difficult to keep staffing levels up to normal. That seems to be the primary reason for the 8-point drop in the index” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of VACEOs. “COVID aside, these small business CEOs are seeing growth and opportunity in the next six months.”


Most CEOS have experienced at least a minor impact from the Omicron variant on their business. That’s the latest from the quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs.

Eight-four percent of CEOS reported a minor impact from Omicron. Nearly 60% of CEOs expect sales to increase and just over 60% expect employment to increase over the next six months.

The survey found expectations over the next six months for sales and employment are positive although those expecting growth in sales were down slightly compared with the end of Q3 2021.Expectations with regard to capital spending were primarily flat.


More than half (59%) of CEOs indicated that they expect sales to increase over the next six months. 

  • 10% expected sales to be “significantly higher.”
  • 49% expected sales to be “higher.” 
  • 8% expected sales to be “lower.”
  • None expected sales to be “significantly lower.” 
  • 33% indicated they expected no change


Forty-one percent of CEOs expect capital spending to increase over the next six months (compared with 47% last quarter), while nearly 15% expect capital spending to decrease. More than 44% expect capital spending to remain flat.   


Sixty-two percent of respondent CEOs expect employment to increase over the next six months. Additionally, 30% expect employment to remain flat while only 8% expect employment to fall. 

Taken as a whole, the results pertaining to sales, capital spending, and employment continue to be positive although the overall Economic Outlook Index decreased (93.7 versus 102.2) relative to the results from the end of Q3 2021.  


The survey also asked CEOs how the current COVID-19 surge related to the Omicron variant impacted their business. Their response was as follows:

  • No impact: 16%
  • Minor impact: 63%
  • Significant impact: 21%

Employers indicated that the impact was largely due to employee absenteeism and related costs.

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: 46%
  • No change in the percentage working remotely: 43%
  • A lower percentage will be working remotely: 11%


  • 61 CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered January 10–14, 2022 
  • 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): $8 million
  • The average employment count: 55

Additional Details about the CEO Economic Survey for Q4 2021
Released in January 2022

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 Q4 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

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.

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 4:24 pm
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