Optimism about the U.S. economy among CFOs fell in the first quarter of 2022, according to The CFO Survey, a collaboration of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond and Atlanta.
Alongside the decline in optimism, expectations of firms for real GDP growth and stock market appreciation both softened. CFOs indicated that their most pressing concerns are around cost pressure and inflation, supply chains, and the availability and quality of labor. Geopolitical risk also entered the list of top concerns.
When asked to rate optimism about the overall U.S. economy on a scale from 0 to 100, the average rating from CFOs was 54.8, well down from the 60.3 reading in the fourth quarter of 2021. Optimism for their own firms’ financial prospects remained relatively unchanged: on average, optimism edged down to 69.6 from the fourth quarter reading of 70.8.
“This decline in optimism about the overall economy is evident across industries, but was particularly pronounced for firms with fewer than 500 employees,” said Richmond Fed economist Sonya Ravindranath Waddell. “Although revenue expectations were up from last quarter, so, too, were expectations for unit costs and price inflation in their goods and services. Thus, it is not surprising to see a downward shift in expectations for real GDP growth for the next 12 months.”
More than three-quarters of respondent firms reported difficulty hiring new employees, with most of these firms reporting that these challenges were impacting revenue and more than half indicating an impact on both revenue and their ability to operate at full capacity. Among firms reporting hiring difficulties, more than 80 percent are responding by increasing wage and salary offers. The second most common response to hiring difficulties was having existing employees work longer hours. Nearly 40 percent of firms experiencing hiring challenges reported implementing or exploring the use of technology to reduce reliance on labor.
The CFO Survey is issued by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond and Atlanta. The latest survey, as well as historical data and commentary, can be found at www.cfosurvey.org.