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Survey of Virginia CEOs shows some improvement in economic outlook for next six months

Survey of Virginia CEOs shows some improvement in economic outlook for next six months

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A recent survey of executives with small- and medium-sized businesses in Virginia shows that the economic outlook has improved somewhat from the spring.

About 53% of the chief executive officers who responded to the survey, which was conducted in late June, said they expect employment at their businesses to remain flat over the next six months, roughly the same percentage who felt that way in a survey conducted in May.

But there was improvement when the CEOs responded to whether they expect employment to increase over the next six months or to decrease.

Nearly 30% of CEOs in the June survey said they expect employment to increase over the next six months, an improvement from the May survey when only 22% were expecting to increase employment.

About 18% said they expect employment to decrease over the next six months, while the May survey showed 27% said they expected employment to decrease.

The outlook for sales and capital spending also improved, with 43% now expecting sales to increase compared with almost 32% in May. About 20% are planning to increase capital spending compared with 10% in May.

The survey is normally conducted every three months by the Virginia Council of CEOs and the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business. Since the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of businesses around Virginia, the organizations have started conducting the survey monthly.

“Survey results over the past four months indicate a positive and steady increase in economic outlook,” said Randy Raggio, associate dean at the Robins School who administers the survey.

Raggio said the survey results reflect the phased re-opening of businesses that is enabling more to participate in the recovery.

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

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

About 54% of CEOs whose workforce has shifted to working from home said that productivity is “about the same.” A little more than 8% rated 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.

Eighty-two CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered June 23 to June 28. Industries including construction, manufacturing, finance, insurance, and retail were represented.

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