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Survey: US Economic Growth Improving Slightly

  • Jim Randle

A trader looks at his screen as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 13, 2014.

A trader looks at his screen as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 13, 2014.

A survey of U.S. business leaders shows they expect slight improvements in hiring, sales and investment. Leading chief executive officers (CEOs) say boosting foreign trade, and reforming taxes and immigration could spur faster growth.

The CEOs surveyed by the Business Roundtable lead many of the largest companies in the United States, employ more than 16 million people, and have more than $7 trillion dollars in revenue.

The CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, said his peers expect U.S. economic growth to improve slightly, but remain below its potential. Still, he said some key drivers of economic growth are picking up.

"Seventy-two percent of the CEOs anticipate that sales will increase in the next six months," he said.

Nearly half of the CEOs also expect an increase in capital investment," Stephenson added.

“There is a very high correlation between private sector investment and sustained job growth," he said. But only 37 percent expect to increase hiring.

The business group says there would be more hiring if there were lower taxes on business and immigration policies that were more helpful to business. They are also pressing Congress and the Obama administration to do more to expand foreign trade. Some of the business proposals are opposed by labor and other groups.

A separate survey by Gallup published Tuesday showed Americans grew slightly less pessimistic about the nation's current and future economic situation.

Other new economic data shows fewer houses were built in February than the previous month, but a rise in the number of permits issued for future construction may be a sign of future growth. A Labor Department report shows a slight increase in the cost of living in February, as falling gasoline prices softened the impact of rising food costs.

Top officials of the U.S. central bank are looking at this and other information Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, where they are debating how much support the recovering U.S. economy needs.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has been using super-low interest rates in an effort to boost growth by making it cheaper to borrow the money families need to buy homes and that businesses need to buy equipment, expand and hire new people.

One part of that effort has been purchasing tens of billions of dollars' worth of securities each month. The Fed has been steadily reducing or "tapering" that effort.

Wednesday afternoon, new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to outline the bank's latest economic outlook and meet with reporters to explain the Fed's decisions.
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