Data & Results – Q1 2022

March 30, 2022

CFO Economic Optimism Declines in the First Quarter of 2022

Alongside the decline in optimism about the U.S. economy, expectations of firms for real GDP growth and stock market appreciation both softened.

News Release

March 23, 2022

CFO Survey data from Q2 2020 to Q4 2021 have been revised in accordance with an annual revision process. Revised historical data are available for download. Comparisons of revised and previously published estimates are also available.

Historical special question results are unrevised and available on archived quarterly results pages.

For more information on the annual data revision process, please refer to The CFO Survey Methodology.

  • CFO Optimism

    Optimism about the U.S. economy fell in the first quarter. When survey participants were asked between March 7 and 18 to rate their optimism about the overall U.S. economy, the average index was 54.8, well down from the 60.3 reading in the fourth quarter of 2021. When asked to rate their optimism about the financial prospects of their own firms, optimism was relatively unchanged, edging down to 69.6 from the fourth quarter reading of 70.8.

    For additional discussion of these results, visit our Research & Commentary section.

  • CFOs’ Most Pressing Concerns

    When asked to characterize their most pressing concerns, CFOs cited cost pressures and inflation, as well as continued concerns over labor availability/quality and supply chains. Geopolitical risk also entered the list of top concerns.

  • CFOs’ Expectations for Their Firms’ Performance

    Firms’ revenue expectations for 2022 were up from last quarter, but so, too, were expectations for unit cost and price inflation in their goods and services.

    CFOs’ Growth Expectations for Their Own Firms, by Response QuarterQ1 2022Q4 2021
    Mean (and Median) Expected Year-Over-Year Percentage Change for Calendar Years2022202320212022
    Employment (full-time)4.5%
    Wage Bill7.8%
    Non-wage Compensation7.3%
    Unit Cost8.3%


    Note: Q1 2022 data in the table reflect results for 317 to 337 U.S. firms responding to the Q1 2022 survey (March 7–18, 2022). Results from the Q4 2021 survey (November 8–19, 2021) are shown for comparison (for 254 to 283 firms). See additional notes in the chart above.
  • CFOs’ Expectations for the Aggregate Economy

    Among survey respondents in the first quarter, the mean expectation for real GDP growth over the next four quarters was 2.5 percent. Respondents expected an average annual return on the S&P 500 of 3.6 percent over the next 12 months and 8.6 percent over the next 10 years.

    CFOs’ Expectations for Real GDP Growth Over Next Four Quarters, by Response Quarter
    Q1 2022
    Q4 2021
    Weighted Mean2.5%3.1%
    Weighted Median2.8%3.0%
    Probability of Negative Growth
    (mean share of probability on bins below zero)
    Note: Responses are weighted by sales revenue. See additional notes in the chart above.
    Expectations for Stock Market Performance, by Response QuarterQ1 2022Q4 2021
    Expected Annual S&P 500 Returns Over Next 12 Months and Next 10 Years12 Mos
    10 Yrs
    12 Mos
    10 Yrs
    Worst Case (a 1-in-10 chance the actual return will be less than):-6.2%2.9%-3.5%2.6%
    Most Likely Case3.6%8.6%6.2%8.8%
    Best Case (a 1-in-10 chance the actual return will be greater than):9.5%13.2%12.1%14.1%
    Note: The table shows responses from firms that indicated they closely follow the stock market. Results from the Q4 2021 survey (November 8–19, 2021) are shown for comparison. Responses are unweighted and winsorized at 2.5% and 97.5% to remove the potential influence of extreme values. Please see The CFO Survey Methodology for further information.
    Source: Duke University, FRB Richmond and FRB Atlanta, The CFO Survey – Q1 2022 (March 7–18, 2022)
  • Semiannual Questions on Investment

    The first quarter CFO Survey included a semiannual investment module to ask participants about their recent structures and equipment investment decisions. Only about one-third of firms anticipate investing in structures over the next six months. Nearly two-thirds of firms anticipate spending on equipment in the near-term. The majority of firms not intending to invest in either equipment or structures over the next six months cite adequate or excess capacity as the reason.

  • Special Questions on Labor Availability

    More than three-quarters of respondent firms reported difficulty hiring new employees, with most of these firms reporting that these challenges were impacting revenue and more than half indicating an impact on both revenue and their ability to operate at full capacity.

    Among firms reporting hiring difficulties, more than 80 percent are responding by increasing wage and salary offers. The second most common response to hiring difficulties was having existing employees work longer hours. Nearly 40 percent of firms experiencing hiring challenges reported implementing or exploring the use of technology to reduce reliance on labor.

    By roughly what percentage, on average, have you raised wage/salary offerings for those open positions you’re having difficulty filling?
    Percentage Increase in Wage/Salary Offerings for Firms with Hiring DifficultiesTotal
    Large Firms
    Small Firms
    Weighted Mean10.4%10.3%10.6%
    Weighted Median10.0%10.0%10.0%
    Note: Responses are weighted by employment. Firms were presented with this question if they indicated they are experiencing hiring difficulties and in response are increasing wage/salary offerings.
    Source: Duke University, FRB Richmond and FRB Atlanta, The CFO Survey – Q1 2022 (March 7–18, 2022)

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