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Conducted quarterly, the Duke CFO Global Business Outlook report surveyed more than 500 global CFOs about their predictions surrounding economic growth and global business conditions.

Responses presented a rise of pessimism about the US economy with 55% of CFOs indicating they are less optimistic compared to 40% last quarter. 12% of respondents said they were more optimistic.

“Business optimism has not been this low since September 2016, a time when the unemployment rate was 5 percent,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey.  

The US was not the only region where respondents were less optimistic. On a scale of 0 to 100, optimism levels by region were: US (63), Europe (59), Asia (51), Latin America (41), lower in all regions compared to last quarter.  

Recession fears were also high as 67% of US CFOs predict the US will enter a recession by the end of 2020. Other regions predict recessions by the third quarter of 2020: Africa (81%), Asia (72%), Europe (69%), Canada (68%) and Latin America (65%).

“For the first time in a decade, no region of the world appears to be on solid enough economic footing to be the engine that pulls the global economy upward,” Graham said

Survey respondents showed increased frustrations surrounding hiring and retaining the top talent needed to navigate volatile economic conditions. Second to economic uncertainty, this was identified as the second biggest concern for US CFOs.

“CFOs are frustrated about not being able to hire workers with skills that are well-matched to their job openings,” Graham said. “Worker shortages are occurring at varying skill levels.”

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