Almost 60% of U.S. CEOs are optimistic about growth in 2018, PwC says

Worldwide, CEOs’ optimism about growth has reached a record level. (Image: oatawa/Getty)

Worldwide, CEOs’ optimism about growth reached a record level for 2018 even as anxiety increases about threats they can’t control, a new report shows.

Specifically, 57% of the 1,293 CEOs PwC surveyed late last month said they believe global economic growth will improve in the next 12 months. That’s almost twice the number29%who expressed optimism last year and the largest increase PwC has seen since it began taking the CEO Survey in 2012.

Optimism is especially high in the United States, where it more than doubled to 59% from 24% in 2017, likely due to uncertainty following the 2016 presidential election. Brazil also saw a sharp rise38% to reach 80%and CEOs in countries with lower optimism rates are also feeling pretty good. For example, Japan’s optimism rose to 38% from 11% in 2017, and the United Kingdom jumped to 36% from 17% last year.

“CEOs’ optimism in the global economy is driven by the economic indicators being so strong,” PwC Global Chairman Bob Moritz said in a press release. “With the stock markets booming and GDP predicted to grow in most major markets around the world, it’s no surprise CEOs are so bullish.”

In terms of their own companies’ growth, 42% of CEOs said they are very confident about it, compared to 38% last year. North America is the only region where a majority of CEOs say they are very confident about their 12-month prospects. Drilling down, the top three most confident sectors are technology at 48%, business services at 46%, and pharmaceutical and life sciences also at 46%.

This confidence is fueling jobs growth, the survey found. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they plan to increase their staffing in 2018, compared to 52% in 2017, and only 18% said they plan reductions.

Still, CEOs are aware of threats to growth. For instance, 41% said they are concerned about terrorism, while 40% cited geopolitical uncertainty and cyberthreats, and 38% worry about having enough staff with key skills. In fact, worries about terrorism doubled from 20% in 2017, pushing it into the top 10 list of threats.

In the United States, 63% of CEOs said they’re concerned about key skills, particularly in cybersecurity, making this a bigger threat than over-regulation, the survey notes.

A main challenge, according to 60% of respondents, is delivering results faster. Also at issue is pressure from employees and customers to take more political and social stances (38%), and for individual leaders to take responsibility for misconduct and other grievances (59%).

“The higher levels of CEO concern about broader societal threats underlines how companies are navigating an increasingly fractured world,” Moritz said. “CEOs across every region and country that we spoke to recognize that the old ways of measuring growth and profit won’t work alone for the future.”