Tenn. Business Barometer: Optimism dips amid searc...

Tenn. Business Barometer: Optimism dips amid search for qualified workers

The latest Tennessee Business Barometer Index reversed its upward trend amid reduced optimism among Tennessee business leaders as well lingering concerns about finding qualified workers, according to the online survey by MTSU’s Jones College of Business.

The overall index dipped to 461 this month from 507 in April.

Dr. Tim Graeff

Dr. Tim Graeff

“This drop was due mainly to reduced optimism regarding the future of the overall economy,” reported Tim Graeff, MTSU professor of marketing and coordinator of the index through the Jones College’s Office of Consumer Research. “However, such decreases in optimism are not so much due to fears that conditions will become worse as they are due to increasing beliefs that conditions will stay the same as opposed to getting better.”

Yet, perceptions of the current economy remain strong and continue to move in a positive direction, Graeff noted.

Other report highlights:

• The inability to find qualified employees continues to weigh on the minds of business leaders, the survey showed, and “it is also clear that personnel-related issues (staffing and rising health care costs) continue to be foremost on the minds of most Tennessee business leaders,” Graeff noted.

• In terms of recruiting, a “strong work ethic” is of utmost importance to Tennessee business leaders when it comes to evaluating college graduates. Similarly, other so-called “soft skills” (e.g., working with others) are also highly important, along with problem solving, motivation, and adaptability.

• The general attitude of Tennessee business leaders is still very positive, and business leaders continue to have a very positive view of the business and economic environment in which they operate.

TBB July 2017-fever chart

This fever chart shows results from the Tennessee Business Barometer Index and sub-indices since it began in July 2015. The latest index for July 2017 is 461, down slightly from 507 in April. (Courtesy of the MTSU Office of Consumer Research)

The current online survey of 107 business leaders from across the state was conducted in partnership with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry between July 10 and July 19.  The sample of respondents includes business owners, vice presidents, senior managers, and managers/others at firms of various sizes.

The overall index score is totaled from four sub-indices measured in the 17-question survey: current economic situation, future economic expectations, business/firm performance and employment outlook. Find the full survey report and previous reports at

The inaugural survey in July 2015 registered an index of 325. The next Tennessee Business Barometer survey is planned for October 2017.

For more information about the MTSU Office of Consumer Research, visit For more information about the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, visit

For more information about the survey, contact Graeff at 615-898-5124 or

— Jimmy Hart (

TBB July 2017-US economy word cloud