CEO confidence just took a dive, largely thanks to inflation

May 18, 2022, 9:29 AM UTC

Good morning.

CEO confidence took a dive in the second quarter, according to a survey out this morning by The Conference Board in collaboration with The Business Council. (CEO Daily got an exclusive early look.) The measure now stands at 42, down from 57 in the first quarter—the lowest reading since the first quarter of 2020. A reading below 50 reflects more negative than positive responses.

Inflation was the big driver of the drop. A majority of CEOs now see a scenario where inflation moderates, but only after interest rate hikes lead to a mild recession. Former TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson, who is a trustee of The Conference Board and vice chair of The Business Council, said the survey shows businesses “are combatting a tight labor market by increasing wages across the board. On top of that, companies are grappling with higher input costs, which 54% of CEOs said they are passing along to their customers. This may contribute to cooling in consumer spending heading into summer.”

A few other data points:

  • 80% of the CEOs reported some problems attracting qualified workers, down only slightly from 83% in the first quarter.
  • 63% of the CEOs still expect to grow their workforce, down only slightly from 66% in the first quarter.
  • 38% of CEOs expect to increase capital budgets in the year ahead, down from 48% in the first quarter.

You can read more from the survey here. And on this week’s Leadership Next podcast, learn how one health care CEO managed to achieve overall mortality rates in COVID-19 patients that were 66% better than comparable populations. There’s a lesson there for the rest of the health care industry. Listen on Apple or Spotify.

Alan Murray


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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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