This fever chart shows the Tennessee Business Barometer Index and sub-indices results since its inception in July 2015. The latest Business Barometer Index is 494 for April, up from 212 in January and approaching pre-pandemic levels. (Courtesy of the MTSU Office of Consumer Research)

Outlook for the future has improved dramatically in the last three months among the state’s business leaders, according to the latest Tennessee Business Barometer by MTSU’s Jones College of Business.

The latest Tennessee Business Barometer Index is approaching pre-pandemic level, rising to 494 in April, a noticeable jump from 212 in January. The current online survey of 114 business leaders from across Tennessee was conducted in partnership with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry between April 8-16.

“Although outlook had declined earlier in the year, Tennessee business leaders have become increasingly optimistic about the future of the economy,” noted Tim Graeff, director of the university’s Office of Consumer Research, which oversees the quarterly index. “This is due in part to increasing vaccinations and the accompanying economic activity resulting from businesses opening up and consumers spending.”

However, perceptions regarding employment outlook remained negative and unchanged. This improving optimism is tempered by fears of higher taxes, more government regulation, and an inability of government, political parties, and political leaders to solve problems.

The Business Barometer is an online opinion survey that tracks an overall index and four sub-indices: current outlook, future outlook, business/firm performance and employment outlook. Index scores are calculated from the percentages of positive and negative responses to a series of questions about perceptions of the economy.

Other survey highlights:

• Along with growing optimism for the future, perceptions of the current economy improved significantly as well as a more favorable outlook for individual business/firm performance, the survey found.

• Tennessee business leaders “have become much more bullish” on the prospects for their individual firms and businesses. “There were significant net gains in the percent who expect their businesses to grow, invest more, achieve higher sales, increase profitability and increase inventories,” Graeff noted. “As sales and revenues grow and firms invest more and purchase more inventory, this can spur on even greater economic growth.”

• The overall index and the Future Expectations Index are now close to where they were in January 2020, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Further, outlook regarding individual firm performance is now higher than it was in January 2020, the survey found.

Aside from a slight decrease in perceptions of the current regulatory environment and growing frustrations with an inability to find qualified employees, all other aspects of the index improved from January.

Find the full survey report and previous reports at https://bit.ly/2GZvO7U. The inaugural survey in July 2015 registered an index of 325, and the next survey is scheduled for July.

For more information about the MTSU Office of Consumer Research, visit www.mtsu.edu/consumer. For more information about the Tennessee Chamber, visit www.tnchamber.org.


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