Today, Lisa Ventriss, President of Vermont Business Roundtable (VBR) and Jeffrey Carr, President, Economic & Policy Resources (EPR), announced the Q3 2017 outlook results of their joint initiative, the VBR-EPR Business Conditions Survey and Index.
The latest survey, which was conducted during the first two weeks of July 2017, achieved a response rate of 71 percent overall and included a 50 percent or greater response rate from 12 of 15 represented sectors within the membership. Survey results show that:
- Three-quarters of respondents (71%) shared negative outlooks specifically with ease of hiring for available positions, similar to the previous survey (74%);
- Approximately half of responses to the question about the state’s overall business climate outlook were neutral (48%). The remaining responses were split between positive (28%, compared to 24% in the previous survey) and negative (25%).
- information sector had the most optimistic outlook (60% optimistic) on the general business climate, while the healthcare sector had the least optimistic outlook (14% optimistic). These sectors were also the most (information) and least (healthcare) optimistic sectors in the previous survey.
The raw (unweighted) survey data was easily compared to the quarterly, national Business Roundtable CEO Survey of national and multi-national companies, which contains similar questions to the VBR/EPR Survey in terms of employment and capital spending (www.brt.org). Comparing these two surveys revealed that:
- Vermont companies are predicting slightly lower capital spending plans and a more neutral or stable employment outlook than their national counterparts.
When comparing VBR/EPR survey results against national GDP data (Table 1), we find that
- Vermont’s outlook appears to remain on a “neutral” trend, given the responses from this and the previous survey, and continues to demonstrate that economic conditions overall remain somewhat uncertain in many areas of the State and sectors of Vermont economy.
Table 1: Comparison between the VBR and National GDP Data
Also included in the survey was the opportunity for Roundtable members to express their opinions on other topics impacting their businesses.
- Based on the highest frequency of comments, respondents expressed concern about the finding qualified employees, challenging workforce demographics, the affordability of Vermont, and the uncertainty regarding healthcare.
- The quarterly survey is a tool for tracking business conditions and forecasting the future of Vermont’s economy, by providing insight into business sentiments and trends. Specifically, the survey provides both a look back at the previous quarter and a predictive index going forward.
- The data for both the backward and forward-looking questions are weighted to the Vermont economy by sector employment and turned into “diffusion indices”. These diffusion indices provide a tool for analyzing and presenting insight into the Vermont economy over time through the sentiments of the Roundtable members. The survey asked eight retrospective and prospective questions about the CEOs’ economic outlook, demand, capital spending, and employment.
The next survey will be conducted in early October, 2017.
 Each question on the survey is weighted by sector employment and the diffusion number is formulated by giving each “strong positive” answer a numerical value of 1.0, “mild positive” answers a numerical value of 0.5, neutral answers a value of 0, “mild negative” answers a value of -0.5, and strong negative values of -1.0. The diffusion index numbers are then formulated based on these numerical values. A value of 100 would mean that every respondent answered “strong positive”, a value of 0 would mean that every respondent answered neutrally, and a value of -100 would mean that every respondent answered “strong negatively.”