Thursday - July 09, 2020
Business Leaders Anticipate Recession
Written by Staff   
Wednesday, 12 June 2019 09:52

DURHAM -- Nearly half of chief financial officers in the United States believe the nation’s economy will enter a recession in about a year, according to the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook. CFOs in other parts of the world predict an even higher probability of recession.

Meanwhile, U.S. companies remain concerned about a shortage of talent and support immigration reform, both for high-skilled and seasonal and lower-skilled workers. The CFO survey has been conducted for 93 consecutive quarters and spans the globe, making it the world's longest-running and most comprehensive research on senior finance executives. The survey ended June 6. Results are for the U.S. unless stated otherwise.

Nearly half (48.1 percent) of U.S. CFOs believe that the U.S. will be in recession by the second quarter of 2020, and 69 percent believe that a recession will have begun by the end of next year. The results are consistent with last quarter’s survey in which 67 percent of CFOs predicted recession by the third quarter of 2020.

“The numbers may fluctuate slightly, but this is the third consecutive quarter that U.S. CFOs have predicted a 2020 recession,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey. “It’s notable this quarter how strongly recession is being predicted in other parts of the world.”

Eighty-five percent of African CFOs believe their countries will be in recession by the second quarter of 2020, as do the majority of CFOs in Europe (63 percent), Asia (57 percent), and Latin America (52 percent).

“For the first time in a decade, no region of the world appears to be on solid enough economic footing to be the engine that pulls the global economy upward. Trade wars and broad economic uncertainty are hurting the economic outlook,” said Graham.

Difficulty hiring and retaining qualified employees remains the most-cited concern among CFOs (with 45 percent choosing it as their top concern). Other top concerns include government policies (37 percent), economic uncertainty (29 percent), data security (26 percent), and the rising cost of wages and benefits (24 percent).

“In the late stages of a business cycle, it is not unusual for CFOs to be confronted with tight labor markets and face difficulty hiring and retaining top talent,” said Campbell Harvey, a founding director of the survey and Fuqua finance professor. “However, this time is different. Given the reshaping of the American economy toward tech, there is an acute shortage of qualified labor. CFOs are strongly advocating immigration reform to fill the gap.”

Eighty-three percent support expedited granting of green cards to allow foreign graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to work in the U.S. A similar 82 percent favor expedited work permits for STEM undergraduate students. Two-thirds of finance chiefs favor increasing the cap on work visas for seasonal and lower-skill immigrant workers.

Nearly 80 percent of CFOs believe the U.S. should drop its lottery-based immigration policy in favor of a merit-based system.

“If the shortage of technologically-oriented talent is not addressed, this will stifle innovation, slow growth even further and winnow away at America’s traditional position of being the world leader in tech,” Harvey said.

More than half of the CFOs who took the survey shared additional thoughts on how immigration reform could help their companies. You can read their comments here (on pages 24-32).

“Some expressed frustration that qualified workers have to win a visa lottery to be hired long-term, when these workers are needed to fill a talent gap,” says Graham, “The business community is sending a strong message to lawmakers about the importance of immigration reform.”




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