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Inflation Concerns, Supply Chain Woes Dim Outlook for U.S. Economy, AICPA Survey

March 04, 2022, 07:19 AM
Filed Under: Economy

Inflation fears, supply chain woes and a lack of skilled job candidates continue to dampen business executives’ views on the U.S. economy, according to the first-quarter AICPA 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 36 percent of business executives expressed optimism in the U.S. economy over the next 12 months, down from 41 percent last quarter. The outlook for the global economy also fell, with 30 percent of business executives expressing optimism, down three percentage points over the same term. Notably, the survey closed on Feb. 23, the day before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting imposition of economic sanctions.

Inflation was the top concern for survey respondents for the second straight quarter, with 42 percent saying labor costs represented the most significant risk in this area and 31 percent citing raw material costs. Anticipated salary and benefit costs for the next 12 months ticked up slightly to 4.4 percent. For reference, the projected rate a year ago was 1.9 percent.

“Our survey shows significant concerns about inflation and lingering supply chain issues from the pandemic,” said Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, vice president and managing director of CGMA learning, education and development for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing the AICPA and CIMA. “With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting economic and political turmoil, we expect additional stresses throughout the global economy. We don’t know yet the full impact on energy and commodity prices and general trade, but the levels of risk and uncertainty have increased for finance managers.”

Availability of skilled personnel remains the second biggest challenge for U.S. companies beyond inflationary pressures. On hiring, 45 percent of business executives said their organizations were looking to fill roles immediately, while another 12 percent said they had too few employees but are hesitant to hire.

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— now stands at 73 down one point from last quarter. The index is a composite of nine, equally weighted survey measures set on a scale of 0 to 100, with 50 considered neutral and higher numbers signifying positive sentiment.

Other key findings of the survey:

  • Despite a deteriorating view of the economy, 58 percent of business executives hold a positive outlook for their own organization’s prospects, the same as last quarter.
  • Profit expectations fell to an anticipated growth rate of 1.6 percent over the next 12 months, down from 2.1 percent last quarter, their lowest level since the end of 2020. They had been as high as 4 percent in the second quarter last year.
  • Revenue projections also fell. Business executives now expect a 12-month growth rate of 4.5 percent, down from an anticipated 4.7 percent last quarter.
  • Sixty-two percent of survey takers said they expect their organizations to expand over the next 12 months, down two percentage points from last quarter.

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