PricewaterhouseCoopers: CEOs' Optimism about Economy Hits 16-Year Low

Optimism in the U.S. economy among CEOs of the nation's fastest-growing private companies reached a new 16-year low in the first quarter of 2008, with only one out of four (26 percent) CEOs surveyed for PricewaterhouseCoopers' Trendsetter Barometer reporting a positive outlook on the economy. Falling from last quarter's record-low of 29 percent, the number of CEOs with a positive outlook on the economy has fallen 59 percent over the last year, the firm says.

Nearly 75 percent of surveyed CEOs responded they are uncertain or pessimistic about the U.S. economy over the next twelve months, up three points from the last quarter and a 100 percent jump over 1Q07 results. While plans for capital investments were maintained at the lower 35 percent level, projected increased spending was off, with 68 percent planning increased spending versus 77 percent last quarter. Fully three out of four Trendsetter CEOs cited concern over a lack of demand as the number one barrier to growth, up 11 points from last quarter and 19 points from last year's 56 percent.

Oil/energy prices was the second highest concern cited by 44 percent of surveyed companies. Professionals/technicians are the most sought-after new hires, with 40 percent of respondents planning to hire individuals in this field over the next twelve months (down 5 points from the previous quarter). Sales/marketing executives (20 percent) and administrative support (13 percent) were the second and third most cited job types.

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