Slight uptick in executive confidence with vaccine distribution beginning in Utah

According to the Salt Lake Chamber’s CEOutlook, Utah executives registered a slight improvement in confidence with job growth trending upward in the fourth quarter of 2020. Another continuing trend was the positive expectations for Utah’s economy going through the first half of 2021. Sentiment, however, was mixed, providing a positive outlook for industry but negative profit expectation for the next year, likely demonstrating continued uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and broader macro-economic trends across the country relating to interest rates, debt, and stimulus debates.    

The findings of the latest survey of statewide CEOs conducted by the Salt Lake Chamber in partnership with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah was released today. 

“Utah businesses continue to demonstrate innovation, flexibility, and focus to overcome major economic headwinds from the coronavirus,” said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “A majority of executives (65%) expect better economic conditions in Utah over the next two quarters, as many made dramatic changes and progress in reaching their customers. The Chamber believes many companies will continue to rebound as demand is unleashed with broad vaccination and consumers re-engage the economy this year.”

According to the survey, confidence has reached a temporary plateau as executives wait to see what impact vaccination will have on broader economic reactivation. The sentiment was mixed at the time over short-term expectations for hiring and purchasing decisions with 51% indicating no plans to increase hiring or purchasing this year. Alternatively, 95% of Utah business executives do anticipate accelerating their growth in these areas by the end of Q3 2021, demonstrating real-time uncertainty but broader optimism over the coming year. 

“The CEOutlook Index ticked up for the second consecutive quarter, with cautious optimism permeating the executive suite,” said Natalie Gochnour, Director of Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and chief economist at the Salt Lake Chamber. “The grit and resilience of Utah’s economy continue to catch the attention of local and national observers. It appears we are on a path back to economic growth and should appreciate the strong foundations Utahns have built over several years that have helped us weather this unprecedented economic shock.”

The survey concludes with some prescient observations around continued in-migration from California, interest rate fluctuations that impact the housing market and stock asset prices, and a potential downturn in the economy when the stimulus ends. Executives believe manufacturing will continue to strengthen in the state and anticipate remote work negatively impacting downtown Salt Lake City. These trends have disrupted the labor market, and finding skilled labor remains a challenge for firms. This indicates reskilling should remain a priority for those impacted or trying to move up the job ladder. 

To view the full 2020-Q4 report and to learn more about the CEOutlook, visit