Mar 11, 2021 - Economy & Business

Big company CEOs get even more optimistic about the economy

Source: Business Roundtable; Chart: Axios Visuals
Source: Business Roundtable; Chart: Axios Visuals

CEOs of some of the largest companies in the U.S. reported confidence at one of the highest levels on record, according a new survey from the Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: The survey is the latest evidence of the K-shaped recovery, which has seen large companies and wealthy people reporting strong confidence and positive outcomes while small companies and those with little or no wealth face increasing struggles.

By the numbers: The Business Roundtable's overall CEO Economic Outlook Index in the first quarter rose 21 points from Q4 2020.

  • Plans for hiring increased 30 points.
  • Plans for capital investment increased 16 points.
  • Expectations for sales increased 17 points.
  • Business Roundtable CEOs also nearly doubled their projections for 2021 U.S. GDP growth, to 3.7% for the year.

On the other side: NFIB's latest monthly small business jobs report, published earlier this week, found the “COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the labor market, especially when some parts of Main Street are still closed or restricted,” according to the group's chief economist William Dunkelberg.

Compare and contrast: “Thanks to American innovation, the heroic efforts of frontline workers and new resources to fight the pandemic, there is increasing reason to be optimistic about the prospects for a swift recovery,” said Business Roundtable president and CEO Joshua Bolten.

  • The rebound was “among the sharpest and quickest recoveries in optimism in the history of our survey.”

“Capital spending has been strong, but not on Main Street," Dunkelberg said in a release accompanying NFIB's latest small business optimism survey.

  • "The economic recovery remains uneven for small businesses, especially those still managing state and local regulations and restrictions."

Where it stands: Overall consumer confidence has gained steam since the passage of recent coronavirus relief bills, but remains well below pre-pandemic levels, according to surveys from the University of Michigan and the Conference Board.

  • Data provider Morning Consult found that since the start of 2021, Americans making over $100,000 a year and those with college degrees have widened the gap in confidence over their less wealthy and less educated peers.
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