Tennessee Business Leaders Optimistic About Economy

Tennessee business leaders show increased optimism for economic prospects in 2024.

Heading into the spring of 2024, business leaders across Tennessee are expressing a significantly more positive outlook regarding their industries and the broader economy, a shift that contrasts sharply with sentiments from the previous year. This change in perspective is highlighted in the most recent results of the Tennessee Business Barometer, a survey conducted by the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Jones College of Business.

The winter 2024 index score reached 431, marking the highest point since spring 2021 and showing an almost 100-point increase from the fall barometer results. The initial survey, launched in July 2015, had recorded an index of 325. The Tennessee Business Barometer, developed in collaboration with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, is an online survey designed to capture business leaders’ perceptions of the current and future state of the economy through an overall index and four sub-indices: current outlook, future outlook, business/firm performance, and employment outlook.

Michael Peasley, assistant professor of marketing at MTSU and director of the university’s Office of Consumer Research, which oversees the index, commented on the findings. “One year ago, Tennessee business leaders had become significantly concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the economy and business environment. However, in the past 12 months, that trend has flipped…Tennessee business leaders are looking forward to future growth.”

Peasley pointed out that after a dip in positive sentiment in 2020 due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, sentiments rebounded in 2021 as economic activity resumed. However, in 2022, sentiments became more pessimistic again due to challenges such as surging inflation and rising interest rates. “Last year, in 2023, positive sentiment made steady gains as businesses were able to better adapt to increased costs and navigate several other business challenges,” Peasley noted. Most recently, in 2024, positive sentiment increased from 37% to 40%, and negative sentiment decreased from 17% to 15%.

Despite lingering concerns about inflation, staffing, and the possibility of a recession, business leaders are more optimistic than worried for the first time in nearly three years.

For further details, the full Tennessee Business Barometer survey report and previous reports are available at https://bit.ly/2GZvO7U. Additional information about the MTSU Office of Consumer Research can be found at www.mtsu.edu/consumer, and more about the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry is available at www.tnchamber.org.

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