As the U.S. economy faces decades-high inflation, soaring interest rates and continued supply chain and labor shortages, midsize business leaders across the country are increasingly cautious in their economic outlooks, according to a recent JPMorgan Chase’s 2022 Business Leaders Outlook Pulse survey.
Just about 1 in 5 U.S. business leaders (19%) say they’re optimistic about the national economy for the year ahead, the lowest percentage recorded in 12 years of survey data, and down from 75% one year ago, according to the survey of 1,500 midsize business leaders between May 25 and June 10.
In line with this dampened outlook, pessimism around the national economy jumped to 51% from 10% a year ago. When it comes to the global economy, business leaders have an even more muted outlook, with only 9% expressing optimism.
Despite dim views on the economy, many business leaders remain confident in their own companies. More than 7 in 10 (71%) are optimistic about their company’s performance and 55% feel upbeat about their industry’s performance, though down from 88% and 82%, respectively, one year ago.
Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents (73%) anticipate increased revenue/sales for the year ahead. However, the outlook for profit growth has been hurt by higher costs, with only 57% expecting increased profits compared to 71% at this time last year.
“The first half of 2022 has really tested business leaders with pricing pressures and increased interest rates, on top of the supply chain- and labor-related issues they were already facing,” said Ginger Chambless, head of research, JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. “While it’s surprising to see how drastically sentiment has shifted, it is important to note that business leaders are still mostly upbeat when it comes to their companies and areas that they can more directly control.”
In the latest survey, 100% of respondents said they’re currently facing business challenges. Business leaders cite the higher cost of doing business, including inflation, as their top challenge (71%), followed closely by labor issues (70%), including recruiting, hiring and retaining employees and labor shortages. Notably, business leaders described several factors that contribute to these challenges as more significantly impacting their companies compared to six months ago. Inflation is worse than six months ago according to 86% of respondents, along with rising interest rates (65%).
Rising costs are nearly impossible for business leaders to escape – in fact, 99% report that their costs of doing business have increased. More than 7 in 10 business leaders point to increased costs from retaining employees (77%), supply chain issues (74%) and hiring employees (71%), as the main drivers behind these increases.
With their bottom lines impacted, more businesses are in turn passing along at least some of the rising costs to consumers. More than three-quarters of businesses (76%) are raising prices, and 42% have passed along at least half of their increased costs to consumers and buyers in the form of higher prices. This trend is not expected to subside in the near term, as 81% of respondents say they are likely to continue to increase prices to help mitigate higher costs.