Tenn. Business Barometer: Outlook among business leaders improves as businesses reopen

Jul 22, 2020 at 08:00 am by WGNS

This fever chart shows the Tennessee Business Barometer Index and sub-indices results since its inception in July 2015. The latest Business Barometer Index rose to 88 this month, up from -211 in April. (Courtesy of the MTSU Office of Consumer Research)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — As businesses began reopening from the COVID-19 economic shutdown in recent months, outlook among Tennessee business leaders has improved, according to the latest Tennessee Business Barometer by MTSU’s Jones College of Business.

The latest index rose to 88 this month, up from -219 in April. The current online survey of 175 business leaders from across Tennessee was conducted in partnership with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry between July 6-12.

The online survey includes four sub-indices: current outlook, future outlook, business/firm performance and employment outlook. The index is calculated from the percentages of positive and negative responses to a series of questions about perceptions of the economy.

Driving the improvement in the latest index was “business leaders’ belief that the economy would recover once businesses reopen and consumers resume shopping and spending on entertainment, dining out, and other activities that make up a majority of our economy,” noted Tim Graeff, MTSU marketing professor and director of the university’s Office of Consumer Research, which oversees the quarterly index.

Other highlights include:

- On reopening: Most respondents said businesses in Tennessee “are reopening at about the right speed or not soon enough.”

- On masks: Requiring employees to wear masks is a common trend; it’s more important for employees to wear masks than customers.

- On liability concerns: Widespread concern about the negative impact of consumers suing businesses for personal injuries associated with exposure to coronavirus. The vast majority support legislation that would limit these types of lawsuits.

The survey’s business performance index also rose, indicating business leaders expect improvements in their firm’s growth, sales and profitability. “The fact that this sub-index is still negative indicates there is still room for significant improvement,” Graeff said.

The survey showed “large net improvements” in perceptions related to individual firms with the majority of respondents also continuing to expect improvements in the overall U.S. economy, Tennessee economy, and economic conditions for their individual industry as well as their business.

“One reason for the improved outlook among business leaders is their continued support for both the Trump administration at the federal level and the Lee administration at the state level,” Graeff noted, referring to the administrations of President Donald Trump and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

But as the state’s number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise, some communities have recently instituted mask and face covering mandates to slow the spread of the virus and the city of Nashville announced that it is scaling back its reopening phase by requiring restaurants and bars to close earlier.

In addition to employee mask requirements, customer safety is of utmost importance for business leaders, Graeff noted. “It is seen as more important for employees to wear masks when interacting with customers than for customers to wear masks when interacting with employees.”


Find the full survey report and previous reports at http://www.mtsu.edu/consumer/reportsbarometer.php.

The inaugural survey in July 2015 registered an index of 325. The next survey is scheduled for October.

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