Survey: Top CEOs expect virus business fallout through 2021

The chief executives of some the nation’s largest companies expect the ill economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic to extend through 2021, and nearly a third of them believe it will last even longer.

Business Roundtable surveyed its 136 members about their projected sales, capital spending and hiring for the next six months. The CEO Economic Outlook Survey fell to 34.3 in the second quarter, its lowest reading since the same three months of 2009, according to results released Monday.

The group”s members include the CEOs of Apple, JPMorgan Chase and Chevron, among others. The poll, taken from June 1- 22, reflected the economic fallout of the coronavirus, which has cost more than 47 million Americans their jobs as businesses were forced to shut down or curtail operations to stem its spread,

Public health concerns continue to weigh on the economy as coronavirus infections surged last week in several states, prompting pauses on reopenings. More than 124,000 Americans have died of covid-19 and at least 2.5 million have been infected.

“The outlook of Business Roundtable CEOs reflects the reality of current economic conditions,” Joshua Bolten, president and chief executive of Business Roundtable, said in the report. Though appreciative of the steps taken by the White House and Congress to help American workers, small businesses and communities, “there is much more to do,” he said.

The chief executives anticipated significant declines: hiring decreased nearly 40 points to 26.3, capital investment fell more than 37 points to 25.0, and sales expectations diminished more than 38 points to 51.5.

“Our battle against COVID-19 is far from over, and our top priority remains the health and safety of our employees, customers and communities we serve,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chairman and chief executive and the chairman of Business Roundtable.

The survey found that all chief executives had adopted or plan to adopt social distancing measures at their work sites. Nearly all executives said they have adopted routine cleaning and disinfecting and encourage employees to wear masks and stay home if they’re sick. More than two-thirds of executives said they have expanded wellness and health services for their employees, and 95 percent of them have expanded flexible work arrangements, such as teleworking.

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