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Despite an uptick in optimism over the past six months, midsize business leaders in the United States are far less optimistic about the national economy now than they were in the years before the pandemic.

According to our 2023 midyear Business Leaders Outlook survey, 29% of leaders have a positive outlook about the U.S. economy today, up from 22% in January. From 2012 to early 2020, however, the average level of optimism was 66%.

Attitudes about the global economy also remain low. Only 15% of leaders are optimistic about the global economy today. And while that is up from January (8%), it is much lower than before the pandemic, when the average level of optimism was almost 30%.

Concerns about a recession are mixed. Nearly half (45%) expect an economic downturn this year or believe we are already in one, while 20% are unsure about a recession.

But there are plenty of bright spots in the report. Most leaders (67%) are still optimistic about their own company’s performance. More than half expect their sales and profits to increase this year. And 85% expect to add or keep staff.

On the policy front, two-thirds of leaders believe the Fed should pause rate hikes; only 16% believe the Fed should raise rates. Even fewer (11%) think rates should be cut.

Midyear industry reports


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, 625 respondents completed the midyear online survey between June 14 and July 5, 2023. Results are within statistical parameters for validity; the error rate is plus or minus 3.9% at the 95% confidence interval.

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