We enter the fall with renewed worry over the economy, losing business optimism locally, nationally and globally. Our readers, who were surveyed in late July for this month’s Input, were asked if they thought things in their region were on the right track or headed in the wrong direction. By a large majority, they said they thought things were headed in the wrong direction, with the gap between the optimists and the pessimists widening since 2008.
At the same time, small-business owners were being surveyed nationally by the National Federation of Independent Business and the results were no less disheartening. According to the NFIB survey, only 10% of small-business owners planned to hire. This is a group that has in the past led the hiring rebound post recession, so if this trend continues, it could signal another recession. “Expectations for growth are low and uncertainty is great,” NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg told Portfolio.com.
A survey of more than 1,500 executives worldwide, taken between June 22 and July 29, showed the corporate world was losing faith in the future early on. Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, it found that almost 34% of respondents expected business conditions in the global economy to worsen over the next six months. Three months earlier, there were twice as many optimists as pessimists.
All three of these surveys were conducted before the stock market began it debt-ceiling gyrations after weeks of political gridlock, and the subsequent downgrading of U.S. debt by Standard & Poor’s. One can imagine how confidence has further dropped since then.
In 2008 and 2009, the business press was flooded with stories making the case for optimism. It’s late 2011 and they’re back. A recent report titled “Why It’s Smart to be Optimistic” by Bloomberg Businessweek reminds again that when the going gets rough it’s time to open your mind to optimism so you can seize opportunities.
I have to agree. I know it is almost impossible not to pull the covers over your head or run for the hills when the bad news flows. But I agree with the Oscar Wilde quip, "The basis of optimism is sheer terror." So take in in the bad news — and try to feel better.