The first quarter 2018 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs finds that Virginia CEOs’ expectations for sales and employment fell from last quarter, while expectations for capital spending were unchanged.

The survey’s index, which measures executives’ views on projected hiring, capital spending and sales over the next six months, fell to its lowest level since Q3 2016.

More than 67 percent of CEO respondents expect sales to increase over the next six months, down nearly 10 percentage points from the fourth quarter results. Twenty-six percent expect sales to increase by more than 10 percentage points, down from the 31 percent who expected double-digit increases last quarter. Only about six percent expect sales to fall. 

Expectations for capital spending were significantly unchanged from last quarter. More than 41 percent of CEOs expect capital spending to increase, nearly identical to the number last quarter; likewise, about 46 percent expect capital spending to remain flat. More than 49 percent expect employment to increase over the next six months, which is down from 62 percent last quarter; over 45 percent expect employment to remain flat, up from about 38 percent last quarter. Only about 5 percent of CEOs expect employment to decrease over the next six months.  

The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which helps 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.

The following survey results from the fourth quarter of 2017 and first quarter of 2018 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:


Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

2018 Q1

2017 Q4


No Change



No Change


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







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







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







“After five of the best quarters in the survey’s history, it appears that expectations are leveling off,” said Raggio. “Manufacturers and companies that sell to them report strength. But interest rates are a concern among residential and commercial developers, and small-scale retailing is weak.”

“There is a lot to like in the local business environment,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. “I think small business CEOs get a little nervous when things are so good, but this remains a fairly optimistic forecast.”

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q1 2018


Q4 2017


Q3 2017


Q2 2017


Q1 2017

108.97 (record high)

Q4 2016


Q3 2016


Q2 2016


Q1 2016


Q4 2015


Q3 2015


Q2 2015


Q1 2015


Q4 2014


Q3 2014


Q2 2014


Q1 2014


Q4 2013


Q3 2013


Q2 2013


Q1 2013


Q4 2012


Q3 2012


Q2 2012


Q1 2012


Q4 2011


Q3 2011


Q2 2011


Q1 2011


Q4 2010


Q3 2010


Q2 2010



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 220 CEO members. Sixty-one CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered March 28 through April 4. Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and retail. The average company whose CEO responded to this survey had about $13.3 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period. The average employment was about 64.

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 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

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 part-time MBA program #42 in the country. The school’s executive education division offers open enrollment courses and customized leadership development, training and consulting to area businesses.

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Related Campus Units

Robins School of Business