Fewer CEOs plan to hire, boost spending

WASHINGTON — A survey of chief executives shows fewer large U.S. companies plan to hire or boost spending in the next six months, reflecting a weaker U.S. economy.

The Business Roundtable says 36 percent of its CEO members plan to add workers over the next six months. That’s down from 42 percent when the survey was last taken three months ago.

Jim McNerney, the group’s chairman and CEO of The Boeing Co., blamed the dip in sentiment on “concern over increasingly persistent obstacles to a stronger recovery.” Those include uncertainty over potential U.S. tax increases and spending cuts early next year and Europe’s financial crisis.

Only 43 percent say they plan to step up spending on machinery, computers and other large goods, down from 48 percent. Most CEOs still expect sales to increase in the next six months.

Overall, the CEO Outlook survey index fell to 89.1 in the second quarter, down from 96.9 in the first three months of the year. Any reading above 50 indicates growth.

The gloomier outlook follows a sharp pullback in hiring over the past two months, which has raised concerns that the economy is slumping after a fast start. Job growth averaged only 73,000 in April and May, after average gains of 226,000 per month in the first three months of the year. The unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent in May from 8.1 percent.

McNerney said that companies are delaying hiring, and even laying off workers, in anticipation of what many economists call the “fiscal cliff” that looms at the end of this year. Several large tax cuts are scheduled to expire and big spending cuts, including in defense, are set to take effect Jan. 1.

While President Barack Obama and lawmakers say they will delay the onset of the changes, McNerney said companies can’t be sure. Last year, Congress and the White House agreed only at the last minute to raise the government’s borrowing limit and stave off a possible default.

“We have yet to regain faith that the process will deal with it,” McNerney said.

As a result, “we don’t know how corporations, or individuals, or capital will be taxed,” he said. “That is having an impact on the results you see here.”

Boeing and many other aerospace companies with government contracts are holding back on hiring and are cutting jobs in anticipation of the spending cuts, he added.

The Business Roundtable represents the CEOs of the 200 largest U.S. corporations. The survey is based on 164 responses received between May 17 and June 8.

More in Herald Business Journal

Snohomish County’s campaign to land the 797 takes off

Executive Dave Somers announced the formation of a task force to urge Boeing to build the plane here.

A decade after the recession, pain and fear linger

No matter how good things are now, it’s impossible to forget how the collapse affected people.

Panel: Motorcycle industry in deep trouble and needs help

They have failed to increase sales by making new riders out of women, minorities and millennials.

Costco rises as results display big-box retailer’s resiliency

Their model has worked in the face of heightened competition from online, brick-and-mortar peers.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Tax reform needs the public’s input on spending priorities

The GOP tax plan is a good idea, but the next step should give us a voice on how taxes are spent.

Commentary: GM, Boeing fight a war of words over Mars

Boeing is strongly signaling how crucial deep-space exploration is to its future.

Under cloud of ethics probes, Airbus CEO Enders to step down

He leaves in 2019 after 14 years. Meanwhile, aircraft division CEO Fabrice Bregier leaves in February.

$4.99 sandwich promotion irks some Subway business owners

Management insists that “most franchisees support the promotion.”

Most Read