The first quarter 2016 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) reflects increased optimism among chief executives in central Virginia. The survey’s index, which measures executives’ views on projected hiring, capital spending and sales over the next six months, increased sharply from its Q4 2015 level to reach the highest level ever recorded. The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.

The executives’ outlook on sales remained strong with 72 percent of respondents expecting an increase over the next six months, nearly identical to the 73 percent that projected an increase when surveyed a quarter ago. Nearly 38 percent of respondents expect sales to increase by more than 10 percent over the next six months.  More than 40 percent of respondents expect capital spending to increase over the same period, a roughly 10-percentage point jump from the 31 percent reported in the fourth quarter of 2015. More than 60 percent of respondents expect employment to increase, up from roughly 57 percent who expected an increase a quarter ago.

The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which helps central Virginia companies anticipate business decisions 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 following survey results from the first quarter of 2016 and fourth quarter of 2015 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

2016 Q1

2015 Q4

Increase

No Change

Decrease

Increase

No Change

Decrease

How do you expect your company’s sales to change in the next six months?

71.6%

23.9%

4.5%

73.02%

19.05%

7.94%

How do you expect your company’s U.S. capital spending to change in the next six months?

41.6%

49.4%

9.1%

30.88%

54.41%

14.71%

How do you expect your company’s U.S. employment to change in the next six months?

61.0%

33.8%

5.2%

57.35%

33.82%

8.82%

“When the index dipped in the fourth quarter, many of us attributed it to an overly optimistic outlook in the third quarter, as the fourth quarter number was back within its normal range,” said Raggio. “But looking further into the numbers, for five quarters, more than 70 percent of CEOs had reported that they expected higher sales, while over that same period fewer than 40 percent indicated that capital spending would increase. This quarter’s result seems to indicate that companies need to increase both capital expenditures and hiring to meet their expectations for growing sales. That trifecta has pushed the index to its all-time high.”   

"I expected the numbers to be up this quarter, so I’m not surprised by the positive results,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. “The CEOs I work with seem more confident. One indication, registration for our annual Retreat is up, and the number of CEOs choosing to play golf is too – by 33 percent! My gut tells me this jump in what I call ‘the Golf Index,’ combined with the optimism I hear on the street, shows in the Index this quarter."

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q1 2016

102.00

Q4 2015

92.67

Q3 2015

99.80

Q2 2015

93.42

Q1 2015

93.90

Q4 2014

95.92

Q3 2014

96.10

Q2 2014

88.71

Q1 2014

86.07

Q4 2013

89.57

Q3 2013

92.53

Q2 2013

91.60

Q1 2013

86.40

Q4 2012

77.57

Q3 2012

81.17

Q2 2012

81.13

Q1 2012

94.10

Q4 2011

88.63

Q3 2011

81.17

Q2 2011

74.17

Q1 2011

85.63

Q4 2010

 92.27

Q3 2010

 94.47

Q2 2010

 81.33

The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect the CEOs of second-stage companies. The Council is led by a board of directors, which is comprised of 18 members and the executive director. Currently, there are 190 CEO members. For responding CEOs on this survey, the average member company had $13 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period. Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance and retail). The average employment of member companies for this survey was about 51.

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 smcroberts@vaceos.org.

The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect the CEOs of second-stage companies so they can learn from each other and grow their businesses. Learn more at www.vaceos.org.

The Robins School of Business is the only fully accredited, top-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a top-ranked liberal arts university. Bloomberg Businessweek ranks both the Robins School’s undergraduate and part-time MBA programs among the top 25 in the country in their respective categories. The school’s executive education division offers open enrollment courses and customized leadership development programs for individuals and businesses.

# # #

Related Campus Units

Robins School of Business

Associate Dean
Director, The Richmond MBA
Associate Professor of Marketing
Branding
Brand Equity Theory and Measurement
Brand Authenticity
Marketing Strategy
Gratitude in Marketing