Sep 13, 2023 - Economy

First look: More top CEOs expect to cut jobs

Business Roundtable Economic Outlook Index
BRT CEO Economic Outlook Index; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Few of America's top corporate leaders expect to add jobs in the coming months, and many expect to cut positions. That presages a slowdown in what has been a blistering-hot labor market.

Driving the news: In a new survey from the Business Roundtable, whose members are CEOs of major U.S. companies, only 27% expected to increase their U.S. employment in the next six months, down from 33% in June and 47% a year ago.

  • Some 32% of the CEOs anticipated a decrease in their employee headcount, up from 27% in June.
  • The deteriorating hiring plans were enough to pull the overall CEO Economic Outlook index down 4 points to 72, a level that implies sluggish growth but not a recession (the long-term average is 84).

The intrigue: The executives' outlook for sales and capital spending were basically flat, which suggests business conditions are holding up overall even as executives re-evaluate what were once more ambitious hiring and staffing plans.

What they're saying: "With an economy that is slowing, not stalling, CEOs continue to moderate their plans and expectations for the next six months, particularly in employment," Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten said.

  • The slowdown evident in the CEO survey is consistent with the Federal Reserve effort's to bring inflation down by slowing demand while, ideally, avoiding an outright recession.

Of note: Bolten called for the Biden administration to seek new trade agreements with allies in the Pacific Rim that give U.S. companies access to those markets similar to that in the reworked NAFTA trade agreement.

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