Business Leaders Outlook
Midyear Survey: Business optimism falls to record lows
But most executives at midsize companies expect a boost in revenue as they navigate inflation and labor shortages, according to our 2022 Business Leaders Outlook Pulse survey.
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 JPMorgan Chase’s 2022 Business Leaders Outlook Pulse survey released today. More than 1,500 midsize business leaders participated in the survey fielded between May 25 and June 10, 2022.
Just about 1 in 5 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. 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.”
Challenges have intensified in 2022
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%).
Passing increased costs onto consumers
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.
Growth plans remain in motion
Despite continued challenges, business leaders nonetheless have their sights set on growth, with 83% expecting to grow their business over the next year. While down from the 90% expecting growth at the end of 2021, more businesses are planning on expanding into new global or domestic markets (63%), and bolstering product innovation (53%), including expanded or new product and service lines, compared to six months ago.
“As has so often been the case in the past two years, business leaders are reacting to today’s challenges by shifting their strategies and taking calculated risks to continue expanding and innovating their businesses,” said John Simmons, Head of Middle Market Banking & Specialized Industries, JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. “They’re setting their expectations high and embracing new opportunities to grow even as they navigate this new set of challenges.”
As companies calibrate their strategies for the second half of 2022 and beyond, the following factors may help facilitate growth:
- Look to long-term trends: While pricing pressures and supply chain bottlenecks are unlikely to subside in the short term, the remainder of 2022 may provide a good window into the potential severity of these challenges for the coming years. Businesses will want to most closely follow the impact of recent Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, which typically take several months to affect economic behaviors, and the impact of ongoing geopolitical events on supply chains. Learn more here.
- Set-up to scale: As businesses remain focused on growth, they may want to take inventory of their infrastructure for scaling, including which forms of debt financing they’re using, who their strategic partners are and how intentional they are in equipping employees with the tools and knowledge to carry out their strategic plans. Learn more here.
JPMorgan Chase’s Business Leaders Outlook Pulse survey was conducted online from May 25 – June 10, 2022, for middle market companies with annual revenues between $20 million and $500 million. In total, 1,536 business leaders in various industries across the U.S. participated in the survey. For year-over-year trends, current data is compared with data collected in the second quarter of 2021 and for six-month trends, current data is compared with data collected in the fourth quarter of 2021. The results of this online survey are within statistical parameters for validity, and the error rate is plus or minus 2.5%, at a 95% confidence level.
Melinda Bonner: firstname.lastname@example.org
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