U.S. Business Executives Grow Gloomier About Global Economy, AICPA Survey Finds

  • 34 percent of CFOs and senior-level CPAs express optimism about
    global economy
  • Views on U.S. economy hold steady after decline in outlook last
  • Revenue and profit growth forecasts tick back up

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Business executives’ outlook on the global economy slid sharply over the
past year, amid concerns about trade conflict and other business
impacts, according to the first-quarter AICPA
Economic Outlook Survey
, which polls chief executive officers, chief
financial officers, controllers and other certified public accountants
in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting

A little more than a third (34 percent) of survey respondents say they
are optimistic about prospects for the global economy over the next 12
months, compared to 40 percent last quarter and 71 percent a year ago.
Optimism about the U.S. economy has also declined over the past year but
remains unchanged from last quarter at 57 percent.

“Trade tensions, the cooling economy in China, the looming overhang of
Brexit on the United Kingdom and European Union, a series of regional
conflicts – all of these have contributed to a sense of uncertainty and
pessimism about the global economy,” said Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, managing
director of CGMA learning, education and development for the Association
of International Certified Professional Accountants, the global
organization that includes the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and
the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). “On the other
hand, we’re seeing a bit more of a stable outlook for the U.S. economy
this quarter.”

Expectations for profit and revenue growth over the next 12 months edged
back up after a sharp drop last quarter. Profit growth estimates
increased to 3.6 percent from 3.4 percent last quarter (the lowest rate
since the second quarter of 2017), while revenue growth expectations
rose a tick to 4.4 percent from 4.3 percent. Both profit and revenue
growth forecasts are well below those from a year ago.

Availability of skilled personnel remains the top challenge for
businesses, a position it has occupied since the third quarter of 2017.
The number of business executives who said their companies have too many
employees edged up slightly in the quarter, from 6 percent to 8 percent.
Overall, 48 percent of survey respondents said their companies currently
have the right number of employees. Of the 41 percent who have too few
employees, some 15 percent said they were reluctant to hire, while 26
percent said they planned to hire immediately.

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 February employment report, scheduled for
release tomorrow, looks back on the previous month’s hiring trends.

The CPA Outlook Index—a comprehensive gauge of executive sentiment
within the AICPA survey— remains unchanged from last quarter at 76. The
index is a composite of nine, equally weighted survey measures set on a
scale of 0 to 100, with 50 considered neutral and greater numbers
signifying positive sentiment. The index stood at 81 points a year ago.

Other key findings of the survey:

  • The percentage of U.S. executives who expressed optimism about their
    own company’s prospects over the next 12 months fell from 68 percent
    to 65 percent, quarter over quarter.
  • Survey respondents who said they expect their organizations to expand
    in the coming year also fell slightly, from 67 percent to 66 percent.
  • Some 43 percent of business executives cited a global economic
    slowdown as their biggest concern regarding rising trade tensions, up
    from 36 percent who said the same in the third quarter of 2018, the
    last time the question was asked.
  • Most U.S. business executives (71 percent) see a neutral impact to
    their company’s bottom line from Brexit, but the percentage who see a
    negative impact rose to 16 percent from four percent in the second
    quarter last year, the last time the question was asked.
  • After availability of skilled personnel, the No. 2 and No. 3
    challenges cited for businesses were “domestic compensation” and
    “employee and benefit costs,” respectively. The latter two flipped
    places in the past quarter.


The first-quarter AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey
was conducted from Feb. 5-27 and included 844 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 American Institute of CPAs

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member
association representing the CPA profession, with more than 431,000
members in 137 countries and territories, and a history of serving the
public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of
practice, including business and industry, public practice, government,
education and consulting. The AICPA sets ethical standards for its
members and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit
organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and
grades the Uniform CPA Examination, offers specialized credentials,
builds the pipeline of future talent and drives professional competency
development to advance the vitality, relevance and quality of the

The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, and
Ewing, NJ.

Media representatives are invited to visit the AICPA Press Center at www.aicpa.org/press.

About the Association of International Certified Professional

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the
Association) is the most influential body of professional accountants,
combining the strengths of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to power
opportunity, trust and prosperity for people, businesses and economies
worldwide. It represents 667,000 members and students across 184
counties and territories in public and management accounting and
advocates for the public interest and business sustainability on current
and emerging issues. With broad reach, rigor and resources, the
Association advances the reputation, employability and quality of CPAs,
CGMAs and accounting and finance professionals globally.


Jeff May

Gil Nielsen

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