2Q Indicator Details a Struggling Middle Market

Despite falling growth, hiring and investment, quarterly report shows signs of a cautious approach to recovery 

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The Middle Market’s Performance

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The U.S. economy has been upended since the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared in March 2020. And while the middle market has suffered declining revenue and employment growth, it has performed better than other economic indicators as a whole.

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Data from the 2Q 2020 Middle Market Indicator (MMI) released today by the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) reveals that the year-over-year growth fell to -3.7 percent, down from the 7.5 percent positive growth rate reported in 4Q 2019. At the same time, the S&P 500 reports -13.9 percent revenue growth.

The future looks somewhat better to middle market executives, who project 2 percent revenue growth over the next 12 months. This is the lowest middle-market growth forecast on record, and well below the average actual revenue growth of 6.6 percent that has been recorded since 2012.

For the first time in the history of the MMI, companies reported negative employment growth — an average of -4.4 percent — for the past 12 months, which was ignited by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the coming 12 months, hiring is expected to be flat as companies stabilize and use more of their full capacity. This decline is a departure from an average middle market employment growth rate of 5.2 percent recorded over the past five years.

Leading The Economic Growth Once Again

“Coming out of the Great Recession, the middle market led the U.S. economy in revenue and employment growth — the last great test of its resilience.” said NCMM Executive Director Thomas A. Stewart. “If there’s a bright side to this news, it’s that the middle market appears to have endured the pandemic’s first punches better than other sectors — which may mean these companies will, again, show the way forward once the pandemic comes under control.”

Amid ongoing economic uncertainty, companies plan to reduce or delay investments in the next 12 months. In 4Q 2019, 70 percent reported they would immediately put an extra dollar to work via investments. This quarter, only 52 percent said the same. Currently, 37 percent of companies surveyed plan to enter new markets in the next year, down from 50 percent in 4Q 2019.

“The ever-resilient middle market is leading the American economy in recovery,” said NCMM Managing Director Doug Farren. “The lessons learned over the past few months are likely to reverberate in strategic planning and capital expenditures for years to come.”

For additional survey data and infographics, including in-depth looks at regional variations, hiring/talent acquisition efforts and other business concerns among middle market companies, visit http://www.middlemarketcenter.org.


About the Middle Market Indicator (MMI) 

The MMI, which was created in 2012, surveys 1,000 executives (CEOs, CFOs and other financial decision makers) from the middle market to examine topics related to business capabilities, performance, growth drivers and economic outlook among other topics. This quarter’s MMI was fielded during the first two weeks of June 2020. It is weighted to accurately reflect the size, industry-wide and geographic distribution of this sector, which includes companies ranging from $10 million to $1 billion in annual revenue. The survey is conducted by RTi Research on behalf of the National Center for the Middle Market.

About the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM)

The National Center for the Middle Market is a collaboration between The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and Chubb.

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