Survey: Iowa business leaders have ‘robust optimism’ for state economy, future

DES MOINES — The latest survey of the state’s top business leaders finds a majority of them remain positive about Iowa’s overall economy.

Joe Murphy, president of the Iowa Business Council, says the fourth quarter survey also finds the chief decision makers of the major Iowa employers are confident in their outlook for the first six months of the new year. “We’re really pleased to see robust optimism across all sectors of our survey as we enter 2024 in all three categories,” Murphy says. “Capital spending, sales expectations, and employment expectations are all above 50 index points, which is the key threshold to project a positive level of confidence for the next six months.”

In particular, Murphy says capital spending expectations were up by six points in the survey, well above positive threshold, which he says is crucial.

“That indicates even more expectation that companies will put additional resources into their Iowa expansion efforts, into their Iowa operations,” Murphy says. “That’s really important as we think about how this state will continue to grow, how the business climate will continue to be competitive nationally or internationally.”

One downside expressed in the survey is the continued difficulty in finding qualified workers to fill positions. Murphy says it’s a persistent challenge for every Iowa business, from small shops to large multinational firms.

“That’s just the issue that we have with our population constraints,” he says. “We have more jobs available in this state than people on unemployment. We have about 57,000 job openings across all sectors of Iowa’s economy and only about 35,000 people on unemployment. So we really need to be focusing on how we can recruit new Iowans into our state.”

Murphy suggests the state look to luring people from both high-cost areas around the Midwest and the coasts, but he also calls on Iowa’s federal delegation to pass comprehensive immigration reforms to allow legal immigration to continue to flow.

The 22-member Iowa Business Council represents more than 150,000 working Iowans.