CEOs have an optimistic outlook for the country's economic conditions going into next year, a new survey concluded.

The index for CEO expectations for capital expenditures, employment, and sales hit the highest levels in the Business Roundtable's 20 years of surveying its member CEOs, the group said in an update Wednesday.

“All of these reflect very strong consumer demand that our businesses are experiencing now,” the group’s president, Joshua Bolten, said of the survey’s three components during a press conference with reporters. Bolten noted that the level of optimism is even higher than during the first quarter of 2018, after sweeping tax cut legislation was passed.

The extremely high CEO sentiment is starkly at odds with consumer confidence, which has been in the dumps thanks to high inflation and depressed employment rates. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index plunged to 67.4 in early November, from 71.7 in October — a 10-year low. The Conference Board also found that consumer confidence dropped to a nine-month low amid inflation fears.

Bolten said that while the results may seem surprising given uncertainty over the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and possible tax hikes, the survey was taken in November before the emergence of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 and reflects short-run expectations, not long-term predictions.


Bolten said it is yet to be understood how the omicron variant will affect economic conditions and that his group’s members are adopting a wait-and-see mindset regarding their expectations.

“If it does turn out to be as dramatic a shift as the delta variant was, that will definitely put a damper on things,” he remarked.

It could take weeks to determine just how much of a threat omicron, which was first identified in South Africa, poses to the country and U.S. economic recovery. The stock market reacted to the new strain, with indices dropping by the largest amounts of 2021 after the World Health Organization labeled it a “variant of concern.” The United States identified its first case on Wednesday.

The executives queried as part of the survey also predicted 3.9% gross domestic product growth for 2022.

Every fourth quarter, the CEOs are also asked what the biggest cost pressure facing their companies is. This year, an overwhelming number, 48%, cited labor costs, followed by 20% identifying costs from supply chain disruptions and 17% saying material costs.

The top three cost pressures have dominated headlines over the last several months as inflation continues to soar to multiyear highs. Because of an apparent labor shortage, many companies have had to raise wages to attract workers. Additionally, the supply chain crunch has also increased the price of goods due to more domestic demand for products than available supply.


During the Wednesday meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C., officials from the Business Roundtable, one of the country’s largest business trade groups, also expressed opposition to President Joe Biden’s tax plan as laid out in the $2.4 trillion climate and social spending bill that was recently passed in the House.

Bolten said it would represent “one of the largest tax hikes in U.S. history” and that while many of his group’s members support certain aspects of the spending legislation, particularly climate provisions, “on balance, we think that the bill would do more harm than good because of the anti-competitive tax increases.”