The Pulse

Business And Industry Economic Outlook

Most U.S. business executives say economy is already in recession or will be before 2023

AICPA & CIMA Survey finds outlook on U.S. economy declines to lowest level since early 2009, though hiring picture remains strong despite headwinds. Download the complete survey findings here.

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Some 51% of business executives say the U.S. economy is either already in recession or will be by the new year, according to the fourth-quarter AICPA & CIMA Economic Outlook Survey. The survey polls chief executive officers, chief financial officers, controllers and other certified public accountants in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

Only 12% of business executives expressed optimism in the U.S. economy over the next 12 months, the lowest level since the throes of the Great Recession in early 2009. That compares to 18% last quarter and 41% a year ago. Inflation, rising interest rates and high energy costs were cited as key reasons for pessimism in the outlook.

One major overhang for finance teams in recent quarters is uncertainty. One-in-four survey takers say their organizations have increased their rounds of forecasting compared to what they were doing during the pandemic economy. Roughly another third say they are continuing a stepped-up level of forecasting from that time.

Beyond the frequency of forecasting, more than one-in-four business executives say forecasting has become significantly more complex over the past year, with another 37% saying it became slightly more complex. Key factors are uncertainty surrounding pricing issues, supply chain reliability, labor costs and shifting consumer demand.

“We saw record increases in the frequency of forecasting and projections during the pandemic and that trend is clearly continuing amid uncertainty over inflation, supply chain integrity and recession risk,” said Tom Hood, CPA, CITP, CGMA, the AICPA & CIMA’s executive vice president for business engagement and growth. “We expect this pace to stay strong as companies work on their cash flow through the next few quarters.”

Key pressure points for CFOs as they grapple with heavier workloads, Hood noted, are finance team staffing and digital transformation of finance work streams.

The AICPA survey is a forward-looking indicator that tracks hiring and business-related expectations for the next 12 months. In comparison, the U.S. Department of Labor’s November employment report, scheduled for release tomorrow, looks back on the previous month’s hiring trends.

Other key findings of the survey:

  • On hiring, 34% of business executives said their organizations are looking to fill roles immediately, the same as last quarter, while another 17% said they had too few employees but are hesitant to hire. Eight percent said they had too many employees, an uptick from five percent last quarter.
  • Profit expectations for the next 12 months dipped into negative territory (-0.2% decline), down from zero anticipated growth last quarter. Revenue growth projections also fell from 2.6% to 2.1%, quarter over quarter.
  • Business executives’ optimism about their own organizations’ prospects over the next 12 months dropped another six points from 41% to only 35%
  • Forty-five percent of business executives said their companies had increased their cash position in the past 12 months, with 14% saying they had raised cash on hand substantially.
  • U.S. business executives’ outlook on the global economy over the next 12 months also fell, from nine percent last quarter to seven percent.
  • Inflation was the top concern of business executives for the fifth straight quarter. Other top challenges included “Employee and Benefit Costs” and “Availability of Skilled Personnel.”
  • The percentage of business executives who said their companies plan to expand fell three points from 49% to 47%, quarter over quarter.

 

 

 

Methodology
The fourth-quarter AICPA & CIMA Economic Outlook Survey was conducted from Oct. 25 to Nov. 17, 2022, and included 551 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points. A copy of the report can be found on aicpa.org.
About the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, and AICPA & CIMA
The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association), representing AICPA & CIMA, advances the global accounting and finance profession through its work on behalf of 689,000 AICPA and CIMA members, students and engaged professionals in 196 countries and territories. Together, we are the worldwide leader on public and management accounting issues through advocacy, support for the CPA license and specialized credentials, professional education and thought leadership. We build trust by empowering our members and engaged professionals with the knowledge and opportunities to be leaders in broadening prosperity for a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient future.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the world’s largest member association representing the CPA profession, sets ethical standards for its members and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, not-for-profit organizations, and federal, state and local governments. It also develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination and builds the pipeline of future talent for the public accounting profession.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is the world’s leading and largest professional body of management accountants. CIMA works closely with employers and sponsors leading-edge research, constantly updating its professional qualification and professional experience requirements to ensure it remains the employer’s choice when recruiting financially trained business leaders.