As Virginia Moves into Phase 3, Economic Outlook Improves

For the first time since December, more CEOs expect sales to increase over the next six months.
July 10, 2020

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND – The University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs’ quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey finds that expectations over the next six months for sales, capital spending, and employment all improved compared with expectations at the end of May. More than half of CEOs (57%) indicated that compared with their expectations for their businesses at the end of May, the last month has been “about as expected.” More than 28% reported it to be “much better than expected,” and 15% reported “much worse than expected.”

More than 78% of CEOs expect to continue to operate without significant layoffs. Only about 10% expect significant layoffs, while about 11% are uncertain at this time.

About 54% of CEOs whose workforce has shifted to work-from-home report that productivity is “about the same.” A little more than 8% rate it “much better,” while about 15% rate it “much worse.” More than 40% expect that compared with their workforce in January, more employees will work from home after the crisis is over, while about 45% expect “about the same” number will work from home.  

Although more than 32% of CEOs indicate that Virginia’s timetable for reopening the state is “about right,” more than 16% find it “a little too slow” and about 24% rate it “way too slow.” About 24% rate it “a little too fast,” and less than 3% rate it “way too fast.”  

At the end of June, 43% of CEOs expect sales to increase over the next six months and almost 18% expect double-digit increases. But nearly 38% expect sales to decline, and 20% expect a double-digit decline. Roughly 19% expect sales to remain flat. 

Nearly 37% of CEOs expect capital spending to decrease over the next six months (compared with 52% last month), while more than 20% expect capital spending to increase. More than 43% expect capital spending to remain flat. 

More than half (53%) of respondent CEOs expect employment to remain flat over the next six months. But nearly 30% expect employment to increase. Almost 18% expect employment to fall.

All of the results pertaining to sales, capital spending, and employment represent improvements in economic outlook over results from the end of May.

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. Randy Raggio, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses. The quarterly survey has been administered since 2010.

The following survey results from Q2 2020 (June) and May 2020 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment



2020 Q2

2020 May


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?







“Survey results over the past four months indicate a positive and steady increase in economic outlook.” said Raggio. “With the move to Phase 3 on July 1, companies will have more opportunity to participate in the recovery.”

“The dramatic rebound of this index, from minus 18 to plus 54, reflects the nature of these entrepreneurs,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of VACEOs. “CEOs of small and mid-sized Virginia businesses have been resilient and creative in adapting to a tremendously difficult business environment. We certainly are not out of the woods yet, but these data are a good sign.” 

“These positive results are very welcome news at a time when stress from the continuing uncertainty is taking a toll on employees and business owners,” said Mickey Quiñones, dean of the Robins School. “They show that the hard work and sacrifices being made by many are making a difference in the performance of Virginia businesses.” 

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q2 2020


May 2020


April 2020


Q1 2020


Q4 2019


Q3 2019


Q2 2019


Q1 2019


Q4 2018


Q3 2018


Q2 2018


Q1 2018


Q4 2017


Q3 2017


Q2 2017


Q1 2017


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


* Record high

Eighty-two CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered June 23-28. Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance, insurance, and retail. The average company whose CEO responded to this survey had about $12.8 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period. The average employment was about 53.

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 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 235 CEO members, mainly in Richmond and Charlottesville. 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 MBA program #2 in Virginia. The school’s executive education division offers customized training and consulting to area businesses.