According to the results of the fourth quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey released on Thursday, polled executives do not anticipate significant profit and revenue in the coming year - the lowest outlook since 2012.

The Economic Outlook Survey seeks the opinions of CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other certified public accountants in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

The fourth quarter expectations for revenue growth now stand at 2.9 percent, down from 3.3 percent last quarter and 4.7 percent a year ago. Profit growth expectations also slid from 2.6 percent last quarter to 2 percent.

Only 53 percent of survey respondents expressed optimism about their own organization’s anticipated performance for the coming year, down from 59 percent last quarter and 67 percent a year ago. Optimism about the U.S. economy also fell since last quarter.

“We’re seeing rising concern about U.S. economic conditions and domestic competition,” stated Arleen Thomas, the AICPA’s senior vice president of management accounting and global markets. “Those factors, coupled with a potential slowdown in the global economy, have contributed to a perception that growth opportunities are going to be more challenging in the near-term.”

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The outlook for 2016, however, has not shaken next year’s hiring outlook. Approximately 18 percent of executives said their companies are looking to hire immediately - the same as last quarter. There was a slight decrease in respondents who said they had too few employees but were hesitant to hire (20 percent last quarter vs., 17 percent this quarter). 53 percent of respondents said their companies had the right amount of staffing.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • The percentage of companies expecting their business to expand dropped three percentage points over the past quarter to 57 percent. It stood at 71 percent a year ago.
  • Growth in IT investments led planned spending categories again, but dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 2.8 percent from last quarter.
  • For industry sectors, optimism about retail trade, wholesale trade and manufacturing dipped below the 50 percent mark in the quarter. In general, optimism was down across all sectors.
  • Professional services led all categories for expected headcount growth in the coming year at 2.7 percent. The mining and natural resources sector swung from a positive to a negative growth projection for headcount in the quarter.

The fourth quarter AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey was conducted Nov. 3-23, 2015, and included 852 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points.
For a full copy of the report, head to aicpa.org.