Virginia Economic Outlook Index Back to Pre-COVID Level in Q3 2021; Employers Hesitant to Require Return to In-Person Work

CEOs Expect Sales, Capital Spending, and Employment To Increase Over Next 6 Months
October 26, 2021

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND ─ Nearly 70% of CEOs expect sales to increase over the next six months and many will not require a return to in-person work just yet. These were two data points of the latest quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs.

The survey also found expectations over the next six months for sales, capital spending, and employment are positive compared with expectations at the end of Q2 2021.

More than half (68%) of CEOs indicated that they expect sales to increase over the next six months.

  • 13% expected sales to be “significantly higher.”
  • 55% expected sales to be “higher.”
  • 8% expected sales to be “lower”
  • 2% expected sales to be “significantly lower.”
  • 23% indicated they expected no change.

Approximately 47% of CEOs expect capital spending to increase over the next six months (compared with 36% last quarter), while more than 8% expect capital spending to decrease. More than 45% expect capital spending to remain flat. 

About 60% of respondent CEOs expect employment to increase over the next six months. Additionally, about 38% expect employment to remain flat while only 2% expect employment to fall. 

Taken as a whole, the results pertaining to sales, capital spending and employment are positive producing a slight increase in the economic outlook (102.2 versus 94.6) relative to the results from the end of Q2 2021. 

The survey asked CEOs to also express their plans, if any, to require employees to return to work in person if they had worked in person prior to the pandemic. Their response regarding returning to in-person work was as follows:

  • Yes (will require that in-person pre-COVID to return to in person): 24%
  • No (will NOT require that in-person pre-COVID to return to in person): 45%
  • Unclear at this time: 31%

Additionally, CEOs were asked what percentage of their workforce will be working remotely relative to pre-COVID.  Their response was as follows:

  • A higher percentage will be working remotely: 32%
  • No change in the percentage working remotely: 47%
  • A lower percentage will be working remotely: 21%

“The survey results suggest that CEOs are optimistic about the next six months, particularly with respect to predicted sales and employment. The overall index has returned to the levels 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 has increased from 94.6 to 102.2 this quarter.”

“These CEOs are expressing a pre-pandemic level of optimism. That is in spite of the significant headwinds of workforce challenges and supply chain disruptions” said Scot McRoberts, Executive Director of VACEOs. “That’s good news for all of us.”

For additional information about the CEO Economic Outlook Survey and a specific breakdown of the data, click here.