The happenings "inside" the Wisconsin State Treasury and across the street at the State Capitol

The Economy & You #32: Industry Optimism about the U.S. Economy


An article appeared in the April 2012 issue of CFO Magazine that summarized a recent survey performed by CFO Magazine and Duke University.  The Global Business Outlook survey asked chief financial officers (CFOs) their outlook on the future of their businesses and the economy in general.

More than half of the 477 CFOs surveyed responded that they are more optimistic now than they were last quarter.  The optimism of these financial executives matches the rate CFOs had in 2007, prior to the recession.  This is encouraging because the increase of optimism of chief financial officers has been an early indicator of an improving economy. 

There are additional positive indications from CFOs.  They indicate that the companies they represent expect to increase their workforces in all areas which include full-time domestic workers (by 2%), temporary workers (by 1%), and outsource workers (by 3%).  If these expectations are realized, it is possible that the unemployment rate could fall below 8% by the end of 2012. 

Even with this positive news, the issue of finding the skilled workers continues to persist.  According to the survey, 68% of financial officers are actively trying to fill job openings and almost half of them have had difficulty in finding qualified applicants.  CFOs also have raised concerns about uncertain consumer demand, rising energy prices, and the economic turmoil taking place in Europe.

While this survey provides encouraging news, the CFO Magazine/Duke University Global Business Outlook survey is not the only measurement used to help gauge the outlook of the economy.  There are many others that political and economic leaders should review as well. For examples:

• The CGMA Global Economic Forecast conducted by the American Institute of CPAs and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountant polls 600 management accountants from more than 60 countries.

• The Bloomberg Comfort Index surveys Americans on their current views of the economy, personal finances and whether it’s a good time to buy needed goods and services. This survey conducts telephone interviews with a random sample of about 250 consumers a week aged 18 or over, and is based on a four-week moving average of 1,000 responses.

• The National Association of Business Economies (NABE) conducts an industry survey that presents the responses of 55 NABE members to a survey on business conditions in their firm or industry and reflects quarterly results and the near-term outlook.

These are in addition to numerous polls and surveys conducted by the media and various industries that ask business owners how they feel about the current economy and their outlook for the future of their business.  All of these can help to provide a snapshot of the health of our economy, and political leaders would do well to review several of these poll/survey results to gain a better understanding as to future direction of our economy.

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