Bank survey: Business leaders mixed on 2024 economic outlook

Expectations for a recession among small- and midsize-business leaders have moderated following a year of better-than-expected economic growth, although overall economic optimism remains low by historical standards, according to JPMorgan Chase’s 2024 Business Leaders Outlook survey released today. Forty percent of midsize and 51% of small business leaders anticipate a recession in 2024 or believe that a recession has already begun, down from 65% and 61%, respectively, from one year ago. Thirty-eight percent of midsize business leaders said they don’t anticipate a recession in the year ahead, while 30% of small business leaders don’t anticipate a recession.

Despite the decline in fear of a recession, midsize business leaders were nearly evenly split in their outlook on the national economy, with 31% optimistic, 34% pessimistic and 36% remaining neutral. While this year’s optimism was higher than the 22% reported a year ago, it remained at historically low levels for the survey, according to JP Morgan. For small business leaders, optimism for the national economy slightly dipped from 49% one year ago to 43% today, and perspectives on the local economy followed suit, with 46% expressing optimism compared to 50% previously.

More than half of midsize business leaders (54%) cited labor-related issues—including shortages, retaining, recruiting and hiring—as one of their most significant challenges, followed by uncertain economic conditions (47%), revenue/sales growth (39%) and rising interest rates (36%). More than one-third of small business leaders (35%) reported inflation as one of their most significant challenges, with rising taxes (19%) and the ability to grow sales/revenue (18%) also top concerns.