After a tumultuous year, a more optimistic outlook prevails.

COLUMBUS, OHIO — Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, parts of the U.S. economy are doing well while others continue to struggle. The middle market is no different, but signs point toward cautious optimism for the year ahead.

Data from the 4Q 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 -1.2%, down from the 7.5% positive growth rate reported in 4Q 2019. At the same time, the S&P 500 reports -5.5% revenue growth.

The optimistic forecast from middle market executives is reflected in the projected revenue growth:­ 4.1% for the next 12 months. This is a substantial increase from the 2% revenue growth projected in July 2020, yet still well below historical levels of growth. Employment declines are also reported in this MMI, at a rate of -2.2%. In the coming 12 months, hiring is expected accelerate as companies stabilize and use more of their full capacity. For 2021, employment growth is expected at 2.3%.

“As COVID-19 hit in March of last year, we saw the devastating impact as the economy ground to a halt,” said NCMM Managing Director Doug Farren. “In the summer, the middle market appeared to gain its footing so to speak, as businesses reopened and more employees started going back to work. Now the reality of a protracted recovery highlights the long-term resilience of mid-sized companies.”

Amid ongoing economic uncertainty, companies plan to reduce or delay investments in the next 12 months. In 4Q 2019, 70% reported they would immediately put an extra dollar to work via investments. This quarter, only 57% said the same. Currently, 38% of companies surveyed plan to enter new markets in the next year, up from the 31% who planned to do so in Q2 2020.

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. It exists for a single purpose: to ensure that the vitality and robustness of Middle Market companies are fully realized as fundamental to our nation’s economic outlook and prosperity. The Center is the leading source of knowledge, leadership, and innovative research on the middle market economy, providing critical data analysis, insights, and perspectives for companies, policymakers, and other key stakeholders to help accelerate growth, increase competitiveness and create jobs in this sector.

Housed at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, the National Center for the Middle Market is the first center of its kind in the nation. The Center enthusiastically serves middle market firms, students, academic researchers, policy makers, the media and other key stakeholders with interests in the health and well-being of the middle market. The Center is fully committed to funding and distributing the most credible open-sourced research, dynamically creating new knowledge, providing programs that drive value for middle market companies, and offering a well-informed outlook on the health and future of the middle market via the Middle Market Indicator.