Monday, May 21, 2018

[411] TENNESSEE BUSINESS BAROMETER Latest survey results hit new high as business leaders

The overall index held constant at 577 in January, the same as October and up from a July index of 461. Find the full survey report and previous reports at

, according toTim Graeff, MTSU professor of marketing and coordinator of the index through the Jones College’s Office of Consumer Research.

The Tennessee Business Barometer increased to a new high of 606 from a previous high of 577 in January.  

This improved outlook resulted from two offsetting trends. 

Perceptions of the current and future economy have subsided.  The Current Situation Index dipped slightly to 289 from 313, and the Future Expectations Index saw a similar decline to 162 from 185.  

Business leaders continue to have concerns regarding workforce and employment.  Although there was a net increase in the percent who expect to increase employment in the next 12 months, a growing number express difficulties finding qualified employees to fill open positions.  

“This dichotomy of trends is concerning as firms who seek to hire new employees increasingly find it difficult to find qualified new employees to fill those positions.”

Conversely, Tennessee business leaders have become increasingly optimistic about the prospects for their individual businesses/firms.  The Business/Firm Index rose significantly to 183 from 100 in January.  Business leaders have become more optimistic about their individual firm’s growth, investments, sales, profitability, and inventories.  

The percent who said business conditions for their industry are “good” increased to 64 from 57.  Further, the percent who said business conditions for their firm/business are “good” rose to 83 from 70. 

This suggests that even though perceptions of the macroeconomic environment have cooled, recent improvements in the economy might have begun to work their way down to the microeconomic individual business/firm level.  Growth and investments by individual firms can drive future growth in the overall economy. 

The current online survey of 54 business leaders from across Tennessee was conducted in partnership with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry between April 5 and April 13.  The next Tennessee Business Barometer survey is scheduled for July 2018.

When it comes to finding employees, firms are more likely to use employee referrals, online job boards, and promoting from within to fill positions than they are to rely on college internship programs or attending university career fairs.

However, the inability to find qualified employees seems to result from a problem with supply (“There are not enough qualified employees out there in the job market”) rather than simply a problem with locating qualified employees (“There are qualified employees out there in the job market; we just have difficulty finding them”).  It is interesting that almost one in four (24 percent) report difficulties with employees shopping around for another job while still employed by their firm/business. 

To help retain employees, the majority of firms actively take steps to create and foster positive relationships with their employees.  This includes developing policies for employee behavior, establishing lines of communication with employees, and offering attractive benefits packages. However, less than half reported having employee development programs that encourage employees to become advocates for the firm/business.  In addition, less than 40 percent offer additional “perks” to improve employee morale and decrease turnover.

The overall index score is totaled from four sub-indices measured in the 17-question survey: current economic situation, future economic expectations, business/firm performance and employment outlook.
The current Tennessee Business Barometer online survey of business leaders from across Tennessee was conducted between DATES in partnership with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  

The inaugural survey in July 2015 registered an index of 325.

For more information about the MTSU Office of Consumer Research, visit more information about the Tennessee Chamber, visit

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