New data from Vistage finds that the economic confidence of CEOs from small and midsize businesses continues to fall. The Vistage National CEO Confidence Index measured 91.6, compared to 95.4 last quarter (Q4 2018) and 105.8 one year ago (Q1 2019). The decline in the index was largely driven by CEOs’ lower assessments of the recent growth in the U.S. economy; expectations for future economic growth remained at the same low level recorded last quarter.

Just 29% of all CEOs reported that economic conditions had recently improved, a 15-point drop from 44% last quarter. In addition, just 14% of CEOs anticipated improvement in the economy in the next 12 months, less than half of the 35% recorded last year.

Chicago CEOs were even more pessimistic. Only 18% reported improved economic conditions, and only 10% anticipate improvement in the next 12 months.

Despite these steep declines, the data “indicates a return to a sluggish pace of economic growth, not a renewed recession,” said Dr. Richard Curtin, a researcher from the University of Michigan who analyzed the survey results. “The all-time low in expectations for improved economic conditions was set in the 4th quarter of 2007 at the start of the Great Recession. The crucial difference today is that pessimism about the economy is now offset by more favorable revenue and profit expectations, as well as more expansive hiring and investment plans, than in 2007.”

The survey was conducted March 4-11 and included input from 1,729 leaders from small and midsize businesses. Click here for the full national report and here for the local Chicago report.

Elisa K Spain

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