Mid-Market CEOs Optimistic but Concerned About Inflation, Finds Marcum-Hofstra Survey

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

The business outlook among mid-market CEOs continues to improve, but their optimism is tempered by concerns about rising post-pandemic inflation, according to the latest CEO survey from Marcum LLP and Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business.  

About 90 percent of CEOs rated their economic outlook at a “5” or higher on a scale of 1-10, up from 75 percent in the April 2021 survey. Nearly half – about 47percent – said their outlook ranked at an “8” or higher, compared to 33 percent in the previous Marcum-Hofstra poll.  

At the same time, though, about a third (67%) are worried that the recent spike in inflation may usher in a long-term inflationary cycle.  

In addition, 56 percent of CEOs said they will continue to require employees to wear masks in the workplace, even though government mandates about mask-wearing are easing. 

The survey polled leaders of 262 companies with annual revenues ranging from $5 million to more than $1 billion. 

Hiring Outlook 

An April Federal Reserve report indicated that hiring remains a significant challenge across multiple industries, a trend confirmed by the mid-market CEOs surveyed in the Marcum-Hofstra poll. An overwhelming majority – 79% – said they have hired, are actively recruiting or planning to hire more staff in the coming months. But almost the same number – 73% – said they are having, or expect to have, difficulty recruiting new hires. 

“We are seeing that the competition for talent is already outpacing supply, as companies are moving rapidly to staff up now that the economy is beginning to reopen. This was a challenge in certain industries such as construction even pre-pandemic.  Wages and training are going to have to catch up with demand to ensure that industries are prepared for future growth.  The federal government’s ambitious spending plans to shore up the economy and strengthen the country’s infrastructure are very likely to intensify the need for workforce in the near-term,” said Jeffrey M. Weiner, Marcum’s chairman & chief executive officer. 

Outlook Strongest in Construction, Real Estate, Financial Services 

While the business outlook among CEOs is strong overall, it varies widely by industry. Leaders in the construction, energy and utility, real estate and financial services sectors are the most optimistic about the next 12 months. At least 60 percent of CEOs in these industries ranked their outlook at an “8” or higher. 

On the other end of the spectrum, only 18 percent of retail CEOs ranked their outlook that high.

The Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey is a periodic gauge of mid-market CEOs’ outlook and their priorities for the next 12 months. It is conducted as part of the Zarb School of Business MBA curriculum, and developed and analyzed by Hofstra MBA students led by Dr. Andrew Forman, associate professor of international business and marketing, in partnership with Marcum.

“From their perspective on economic growth to their approach to health protocols, it’s clear that mid-market CEOs are taking a measured approach to this uncertain initial post-COVID period,” said Janet Lenaghan, dean of the Zarb School of Business. “This latest survey shows that CEOs, like the rest of us, are feeling the same restrained optimism about what the ‘new normal’ will look like.”

“This is an invaluable opportunity for our students to gain a deeper understanding of how business leaders navigate unprecedented, unpredictable conditions,” said Dr. Forman. “It’s one thing to learn about high-stakes business policy decisions after the fact. It’s quite another to have the opportunity to see those decisions unfold in real time, not to mention provide information that could be useful in making those decisions.”

For more information, visit www.marcumllp.com.