Utah executives more confident as economy stabilizes and firms adopt remote work

Utah business executives show renewed confidence in economic outlook despite continued uncertainty emanating from the coronavirus, according to the Salt Lake Chamber’s CEOutlook survey for the third quarter of 2020.

Respondents also noted positive expectations for Utah’s economy looking forward to the end of the year with greater adoption of remote work, including 80% expecting this structural change to endure. The findings were released Wednesday as part of the Salt Lake Chamber’s statewide economic survey of Utah business executives conducted in partnership with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

The CEOutlook Confidence Index increased from 32.3 in 2020-Q2 to 57.3 for 2020-Q3, as executives view Utah’s low unemployment rate and strong economic diversity solidifying the overall foundation.

“Credit belongs to Utah businesses working through the coronavirus pandemic and proactively innovating around workforce, safety, production, and structure of enterprises throughout the state,” said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “Entrepreneurs have strategically pivoted, and Utah has led the way in adapting and overcoming unexpected challenges, keeping our economy relatively strong and our unemployment rate among the lowest in the nation, with 38% of executives expecting to grow headcount in the next 12 months-up from 10% last quarter.”

According to the survey, optimism rebounded as government and businesses developed plans and firms found their footing amid ever-changing challenges. Further, the expectations of businesses in Utah were converging back to industry-wide expectations, correlating to the jump in confidence for Utah. Moreover, respondents noted a productivity parity being close to what normal times would expect, demonstrating Utah businesses and employees are adapting and rising to this challenge.

“The CEOutlook Index rose a record 25 points in the third quarter immediately following a record fall in the second,” said Natalie Gochnour, Director of Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and chief economist at the Salt Lake Chamber. “Seventy-two percent of respondents have had employees working remotely, and 77% of them said their employees’ productivity is about the same or better than when they were in the office. As the pandemic continues we are learning that the strategic response is not a sprint, but a marathon. It’s a test of endurance.”

The survey demonstrates the evolving nature of work and how employers and employees are changing their perceptions and execution of remote engagement. Executives also cite the need to plan for rapid uncertainty, monitor the political risk associated with the Presidential election, and use the slowdown as a vehicle for training and developing their workforce.

To view the full 2020-Q3 report and to learn more about the CEOutlook, visit slchamber.com/ceoutlook.