Confidence Dips but Still Remains Strong: ING suspends survey of African-American CEOs

Chief executives? confidence in the nation?s economy dipped to 70 in the second quarter of 2004 from 73 in the first quarter, the Conference Board reports. A reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses. The Conference Board?s quarterly measure of CEO confidence covers more than 100 CEOs in a variety of industries. A comparable survey of African-American CEOs, published by ING U.S. Financial Services, was suspended after its fourth quarter 2003 report.

In the Conference Board report, CEOs? overall assessment of current conditions remained positive in the second quarter of 2004, with the measure of current economic conditions holding steady at 78. More than 90 percent of CEOs claimed economic conditions had improved, the same as last quarter. In assessing their own industries, the measure edged up to 72 from 71. More than 70 percent said conditions were better than in the previous six months.

CEOs? expectations for the next six months were more subdued than in the first quarter. Their outlook for the economy dipped to 68 from 72, and expectations for their own industries also declined to 65 from 70. About 88 percent of chief executives expected profits to rise, up from the year-ago reading of 65 percent. About 84 percent of executives in the services industry expect profit increases. Among manufacturers, all CEOs in the durable goods industry expect profits to rise, but 85 percent of CEOs in the nondurable sector see profits rising.

The quarterly Gazelle Index, which surveyed CEOs of the fastest-growing African-American?owned businesses on the economy and their current and expected business activity, was conducted for ING by Boston Research Group, an African-American?owned firm in Atlanta. A spokeswoman for ING said the firm is reassessing its initiatives targeted to domestic emerging markets. ?We may tweak it a bit. From a corporate perspective, African-Americans, Hispanics and women are our three key markets. We may decide to incorporate all three [into one pro-duct],? she said.???

Small businesses nationwide increased their employee head count by 2.2 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to the latest Small Business Scorecard from SurePayroll Inc. The number of both W-2 employees and 1099 contractors increased. The average number of 1099 contractors used by small businesses increased 13.3 percent while the average number of W-2 employees grew 1.82 percent. But the size of small business paychecks is down. Compared to 2003, small business employees are doing slightly worse, with average payroll checks decreasing by 1.7 percent in the second quarter of this year from the same period last year. ?The good news [is] there?s more business and more jobs. The bad news is that, on average, employees have less money in their pockets now than they did in the past,? says Michael D. Alter, president of SurePayroll.

In New York, meanwhile, the small business head count grew in the first quarter of 2004 by 6.8 percent to 3.85 employees from the previous year, almost three times the growth rate for small businesses nationwide in the same period, SurePayroll reports. For the quarter, the small business head count nationwide grew by 2.3 percent, with the average small business weighing in with 5.55 employees. Salaries at New York small businesses grew by 27.87 percent from the previous year, while small business salaries nationwide grew by 2.2 percent. The average small business salary nationwide was $30,911.