Business Leaders Outlook
2023 Business Leaders Outlook: U.S.
Our survey shows a sharp fall in optimism about the economy as recession fears loom—but there is some hope on the horizon.
Optimism about the economy has plummeted among midsize business leaders in the United States, according to our 2023 Business Leaders Outlook survey. Only 8% have a positive outlook about the global economy today; a year ago, that number stood at 34%.
Attitudes about the national economy also have changed. Roughly one-fourth (22%) are optimistic about the U.S. economy this year, down sharply from 50% in 2022. Notably, 65% of business leaders in the United States said they expect a recession in 2023.
Inflation continues to be an issue, with the overwhelming majority (91%) of leaders saying their costs are rising. In response, more than 80% of businesses have passed a portion of their higher costs onto consumers and buyers.
But the news isn’t all doom and gloom. Most leaders (66%) are still optimistic about their own company’s performance. Nearly 90% expect to add or keep employees. And supply chain challenges have eased somewhat: 39% said it has gotten easier over the past 12 months to source materials and ship goods.
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. business leaders believe a recession is likely in 2023.
Views on economy
Leaders are far less optimistic about the global economy than they were 12 months ago.
Despite their negative views of the economy, most leaders expect to add or keep staff.
Companies are closely divided between increasing (33%) and decreasing (24%) spending next year.
More than one-third say supply chain issues have gotten better in the past 12 months.
While most leaders believe profits will rise, it’s a sharp decline from last year’s expectations.
Economic outlook and expectations
Less than 40% of U.S. business leaders are optimistic about the global, national and local economies. But their pessimism doesn’t carry over to how they feel about their own companies.
Optimism on the decline
The share of midsize U.S. business leaders who are optimistic about the national and global economies has fallen steadily since peaking in 2018. This year, in fact, marks the lowest levels of optimism since the Business Leaders Outlook survey began.
Bullish on their own businesses
The vast majority of businesses (86%) expect their revenues to grow or hold steady in 2023. But a smaller percentage (76%) expect their capital expenditures to increase or remain the same.
Leaders generally don’t expect many changes due to recent elections. The one outlier? Inflation, with more than half thinking it will get worse.
U.S. business leaders face a litany of challenges today. Among them: persistent inflation, snarled supply chains and a shortage of workers.
Business transitions and growth plans
About the survey
Started in 2011, the annual and midyear Business Leaders Outlook survey series provides snapshots of the challenges and opportunities facing executives of midsize companies in the United States.
This year, 791 respondents completed the online survey between Nov. 29 and Dec. 13, 2022. Results are within statistical parameters for validity; the error rate is plus or minus 3.5% at the 95% confidence interval.
Company by industry
Government: 1%; healthcare: 6%; higher education: 1%; home services: 2%; industrials: 7%; manufacturing: 26%; media/entertainment/advertising: 3%; nonprofit: 3%; oil and gas: 2%; other professional/non-finance: 7%; real estate: 8%; restaurants/food services: 3%; technology: 7%; transportation/logistics 4%; wholesale/retail: 12%; other: 9%
Note: Some numbers may not equal 100% due to rounding.
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