Colorado business leaders’ optimism has dropped to its lowest point in the 17-year history of the Leeds Business Confidence Index, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Released March 31, the quarterly report from the Leeds Business Research Division at the Leeds School of Business, marks Colorado business leaders’ expectations for the state and national economies, industry sales, industry profits, hiring and business spending. 

“The survey reflects the rapid deterioration of the economy and how business leaders are digesting the early days of this worldwide crisis,” Brian Lewandowski, executive director of the Leeds Business Research Division, said in a news release. 

“Our survey also took place before the latest batch of economic data, which doesn’t look very promising.”

More than 400 business leaders responded to the latest survey March 1 and March 20.

An LBCI score of 50 indicates a neutral outlook. Looking forward to the second quarter of 2020, the overall index is 29.7. All six LBCI categories are well below 50, with the national economy posting the lowest outlook at 21.8.

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Most of the panelists cited coronavirus for their pessimism, with 86 percent pointing to the pandemic. Panelists also pointed to the overall economy, the upcoming election and the oil market.

Panelists indicated more optimism about the state economy for the upcoming quarter, with an LBCI score of 28.8. They gave hiring and business spending, also known as capital expenditures, higher marks than business leaders submitted during the Great Recession.

Colorado business leaders also expect the economy to rebound somewhat, giving the third quarter of 2020 an LBCI score of 38.2.

“There is optimism that the worst of the impact will be short-lived,” Lewandowski said. “Although this is a big drop for one quarter, the index saw a bigger cumulative drop during the Great Recession. This looks like it could be different.”

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