Area business leaders less optimistic about fourth quarter

But most still expect sales and profit growth


Area business leaders are less optimistic about their company’s performance in the fourth quarter than they were heading into the third quarter, but most still expect year-over-year increases in sales and profits during the last three months of the year.

According to the quarterly business outlook survey conducted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, 63% of area business leaders expect higher sales during the fourth quarter, down from 77% who expected third quarter sales gains, and 59% expect higher profits during the fourth quarter, down from 69% who expected a third quarter profit increase.

For sales, 15% expect a fourth quarter decline. For profits, 20% expect a fourth quarter decline.

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The survey contains responses from 104 Milwaukee-area firms, both large and small, employing more than 44,900 people.

Of those surveyed, 35% expect a year-over-year employment increase for the fourth quarter, 52% expect no change in fourth quarter employment and 13% expect an employment decrease for the quarter. That represents the lowest percentage of area companies expecting quarterly job gains since the MMAC’s survey for the fourth quarter of 2010.

Looking ahead to 2020, 68% expect an increase in sales next year. That’s down from three months ago, when 77% expected sales gains for 2019.

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“The survey outlook suggests slower business growth in 2019’s final three months and pushing into 2020,” said Bret Mayborne, the economic research director for the MMAC. “To some extent this trend has already shown itself in an uneven metro area employment situation and an overall weakening of the current manufacturing trend. With that said, there have been lower expectations recorded during the recovery period, suggesting a slowdown is more likely than actual economic declines.”

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