Tennessee Business Barometer: Less optimism about future economy

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See the full report: http://www.mtsu.edu/consumer/docs/barometeroct2015.pdf

While Tennessee business leaders generally have a positive view about the state and U.S. economies right now, they are less optimistic about the future heading into the final quarter of the year, according to the latest Tennessee Business Barometer survey.

Middle Tennessee State University and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry partnered to create the business barometer, a new quarterly index capturing the mood and outlook of business leaders through online surveys. The October statewide poll registered an index score of 243, down from 325 measured in July during the barometer's inaugural release.

While two-thirds of survey respondents rated the current economy in Tennessee as "good," expectations for the future "dropped noticeably," said Dr. Tim Graeff, professor of marketing in MTSU's Jones College of Business who is coordinating the index. "There is growing unease regarding the future of the economy."

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Business leaders appear increasingly anxious about the economic conditions for their individual industries and firms, with concerns about growth and sales driving down expectations, Graeff noted.

The latest results are based on an online survey of 89 business leaders throughout the state conducted Oct. 1-8. Respondents included business owners, vice presidents, senior managers and managers at firms of various sizes. The score is computed by adding the percentage of positive responses to each survey question and subtracting the percentage of negative responses. The margin of error is 10 percent.

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A pdf copy of the full report is available at http://tinyurl.com/pfwk4y8 or through the MTSU Office of Consumer Research's website at www.mtsu.edu/consumer.

Among other survey highlights:

• The subject of business leaders' concerns -- rising health care costs, difficulties finding qualified employees, political and economic uncertainty, and the possibility of increasing regulation -- remain unchanged, for the most part, from July.

• Employment outlook is still mixed, while improving modestly. Overall, four in 10 firms expect to increase employment, but few believe it's easy to find qualified employees.

MTSU and the Tennessee Chamber will track the index over time to identify patterns in the assessments of Tennessee business leaders about the business climate, similar to national consumer confidence surveys. The next Tennessee Business Barometer survey is planned for January 2016.

The MTSU Office of Consumer Research also recently launched a statewide consumer index to gauge consumer outlook. The online survey measures areas such as how consumers feel about the local, state and national economies as well as their personal financial situations and the job market. The inaugural Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index report is available at http://tinyurl.com/ptcley3.

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