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Surveying Business Uncertainty

Author

Listed:
  • David E. Altig
  • Jose Maria Barrero
  • Nicholas Bloom
  • Steven J. Davis
  • Brent Meyer
  • Nicholas B. Parker

Abstract

We elicit subjective probability distributions from business executives about their own-firm outcomes at a one-year look-ahead horizon. In terms of question design, our key innovation is to let survey respondents freely select support points and probabilities in five-point distributions over future sales growth, employment, and investment. In terms of data collection, we develop and field a new monthly panel Survey of Business Uncertainty (SBU). The SBU began in 2014 and now covers about 1,750 firms drawn from all 50 states, every major nonfarm industry, and a range of firm sizes. We find three key results. First, firm-level growth expectations are highly predictive of realized growth rates. Second, subjective uncertainty is highly predictive of forecast errors and the magnitude of future forecast revisions. Third, subjective uncertainty rises with the firm’s absolute growth rate in the previous year and the extent of recent news about its growth prospects. We aggregate over firm-level forecast distributions to construct monthly indices of business expectations (first moment) and uncertainty (second moment) for the U.S. private sector.

Suggested Citation

  • David E. Altig & Jose Maria Barrero & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis & Brent Meyer & Nicholas B. Parker, 2020. "Surveying Business Uncertainty," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2019-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2019-13
    DOI: 10.29338/wp2019-13b
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Scott R. Baker & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis & Stephen J. Terry, 2020. "COVID-Induced Economic Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 26983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Altig, Dave & Baker, Scott & Barrero, Jose Maria & Bloom, Nicholas & Bunn, Philip & Chen, Scarlet & Davis, Steven J. & Leather, Julia & Meyer, Brent & Mihaylov, Emil & Mizen, Paul & Parker, Nicholas &, 2020. "Economic uncertainty before and during the COVID-19 pandemic," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
    3. Luca Rossi, 2020. "Indicators of uncertainty: a brief user’s guide," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 564, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    4. Bloom, Nicholas & Bunn, Philip & Chen, Scarlet & Mizen, Paul & Smietanka, Pawel & Thwaites, Gregory, 2019. "The impact of Brexit on UK firms," Bank of England working papers 818, Bank of England.
    5. Hassan, Tarek Alexander & Hollander, Stephan & Tahoun, Ahmed & van Lent, Laurence, 2019. "The Global Impact of Brexit Uncertainty," CEPR Discussion Papers 14253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. CHEN Cheng & SENGA Tatsuro & SUN Chang & ZHANG Hongyong, 2018. "Uncertainty, Imperfect Information, and Expectation Formation over the Firm's Life Cycle," Discussion papers 18010, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    7. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Pablo Guerron-Quintana, 2020. "Uncertainty Shocks and Business Cycle Research," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 37, pages 118-166, August.
    8. Jose Maria Barrero & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis, 2020. "COVID-19 Is Also a Reallocation Shock," Working Papers 2020-60, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    9. Bachmann, Rüdiger, 2019. "Comments on “Monetary policy announcements and expectations: Evidence from German firms”," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 64-68.
    10. Danilo Cascaldi-Garcia & Deepa Dhume Datta & Thiago Revil T. Ferreira & Olesya V. Grishchenko & Mohammad R. Jahan-Parvar & Juan M. Londono & Francesca Loria & Sai Ma & Marius del Giudice Rodriguez & J, 2020. "What is Certain about Uncertainty?," International Finance Discussion Papers 1294, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    11. Bernardo Candia & Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2020. "Communication and the Beliefs of Economic Agents," NBER Working Papers 27800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Jose Maria Barrero & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis & Brent Meyer, 2021. "COVID-19 Is a Persistent Reallocation Shock," Working Papers 2021-02, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    13. Lautenbacher, Stefan, 2020. "Subjective Uncertainty, Expectations, and Firm Behavior," MPRA Paper 103516, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Max Nathan & Henry Overman, 2020. "Will coronavirus cause a big city exodus?," Environment and Planning B, , vol. 47(9), pages 1537-1542, November.
    15. Hacioglu Hoke, Sinem, 2019. "Macroeconomic effects of political risk shocks," Bank of England working papers 841, Bank of England.
    16. , 2020. "The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Business Expectations," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2020-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    17. Nicholas Bloom & Robert S. Fletcher & Ethan Yeh, 2021. "The Impact of COVID-19 on US Firms," NBER Working Papers 28314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. MORIKAWA Masayuki, 2019. "Firms' Subjective Uncertainty and Forecast Errors," Discussion papers 19055, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    19. Nicholas Bloom & Philip Bunn & Paul Mizen & Pawel Smietanka & Gregory Thwaites, 2020. "The Impact of Covid-19 on Productivity," NBER Working Papers 28233, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Barrero, Jose Maria, 2020. "The Micro and Macro of Managerial Beliefs," SocArXiv fctsb, Center for Open Science.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    business uncertainty; subjective forecast distributions; surveys;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • M2 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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