CEO Economic Outlook Index

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index is based on a survey — conducted quarterly since the fourth quarter of 2002 — of our member CEOs’ plans for hiring and capital spending, and their expectations for sales, over the next six months. Taking these factors together, the survey signals the direction of the U.S. economy.

Business Roundtable CEO Economic Index Continues to Dip Modestly on Hiring Plans, Amid Slowing Global Economy

Majority of CEOs Strongly Support New USMCA-Style Trade Agreements in the Indo-Pacific, as U.S. De-Risks from China

Washington – Business Roundtable today released its Q3 2023 CEO Economic Outlook Survey, a composite index of CEO plans for capital spending and employment and expectations for sales over the next six months.

“While the U.S. economy is resilient, it’s increasingly important for policymakers in Washington to work together with the business community to advance pro-growth policies for America,” said Business Roundtable Chair Mary Barra, Chair and CEO of General Motors. “Business Roundtable is committed to working with Congress and the Administration to build on the successes of recent bipartisan legislation to strengthen our economy.”

The overall Index dipped a modest four points from last quarter to 72, remaining below its historic average of 84. Continued moderation in CEO plans and expectations is consistent with a slowing U.S. and global economy.

“With an economy that is slowing, not stalling, CEOs continue to moderate their plans and expectations for the next six months, particularly in employment. While two-thirds of our companies intend for hiring to increase or stay the same, roughly a third expect to scale back,” said Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten.

In a special question posed this quarter, 85% of CEOs agreed that as the U.S. de-risks from China, securing new, high-standard, USMCA-style trade agreements with substantial market access provisions, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, is critical to U.S. competitiveness.

“New, high-standard trade agreements are necessary to open markets for U.S. goods, services and investment, protect American innovation, and ensure that American firms and workers compete in the global economy on a level playing field,” said Bolten. “Business Roundtable urges the Administration to build on its Indo-Pacific Economic Framework by pursuing new trade agreements with our allies in the region that include enforceable market access commitments based on the USMCA model.”

This quarter’s results reflect a continued reduction in CEO plans for hiring, a slight increase in capital spending and a small decrease in expectations for sales for the next six months.

Specifically, the three subindices were as follows:

  • Plans for hiring decreased 11 points to a value of 45.
  • Plans for capital investment increased 1 point to a value of 69.
  • Expectations for sales decreased 1 point to a value of 103.

In their fourth estimate of 2023 U.S. GDP growth, CEOs projected 2.1% growth for the year.

This quarter’s survey was in the field from August 23 through September 8, 2023. Overall, 143 CEOs completed the survey.

Summary table of 2023 Q3 survey results

Click the table to zoom in.

About the Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Survey

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly since the fourth quarter of 2002, provides a forward-looking view of the economy by Business Roundtable member CEOs. The survey is designed to provide a picture of the future direction of the U.S. economy by asking CEOs to report their company’s expectations for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months. The data are used to create the Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index and sub-indices for sales, capex and hiring. These indices are diffusion indices that range between -50 and 150—where readings at 50 or above indicate economic expansion, and readings below 50 indicate economic contraction. A diffusion index is defined as the percentage of respondents who report that a measure will increase, minus the percentage who report that the measure will decrease. The diffusion indices here are then normalized by adding 50 to the result.

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