Businesses’ Forecasts Of Unit Cost Changes And Factors Impacting Price Changes

The Atlanta Federal Reserve publishes a monthly report titled “Business Inflation Expectations” (BIE) that contains statistics from a survey of regional businesses’ views on various factors that impact profitability.  These factors include unit costs, unit cost expectations, sales levels, profit margins, and other factors.

As described on the site:

Approximately 300 panelists receive the survey each month. Panelists represent businesses of various sizes headquartered within the Sixth District, which encompasses Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and sections of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Panelists range from executives of large corporations to owner-operators of small businesses. The industry composition of the panel roughly reflects the makeup of the national economy. Nevertheless, survey responses are weighted by industry shares of national gross domestic product.

An excerpt from the February 2014 BIE Survey (pdf) dated February 12, 2014 (involving 200 firms responding) :

Respondents indicated that, on average, they expect unit costs to rise 2.0 percent over the next 12 months. Inflation uncertainty was virtually unchanged at 2.4 percent. Firms also report that, compared to this time last year, their unit costs are up 1.8 percent. Respondents’ sales levels compared to what they consider “normal” conditions showed no improvement, with approximately 49 percent indicating current sales levels are at or above normal, the same percentage as in January. Profit margins showed some improvement, with roughly 48 percent of respondents indicating their profit margins are at or above normal, compared to 45 percent in January.

This month’s “quarterly question” concerned factors influencing price changes.   As seen in the report:

About 65 percent of respondents expect labor costs to put moderate or strong upward pressure on their prices over the next 12 months. Respondents’ expectations regarding the influence of non-labor costs on prices declined in November, the prior measure, and remained at this lower level this month. Forty-one percent of respondents expect sales levels to put moderate or strong upward pressure on prices in the year ahead. The majority of firms expect productivity and margin adjustments to have little or no influence over prices in the next 12 months.

Furthermore, the “special question” asked respondents about their expectations for year-ahead hiring expectations.

The report also includes a variety of charts depicting respondents’ answers.


StratX, LLC offers the above commentary for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily agree with all (or any) of the views expressed by these outside parties.

—– is published by StratX, LLC (  StratX, LLC is a management consulting firm and strategic advisory that focuses on the analysis of current and future business conditions, and given these conditions, offers corporations and businesses advice, strategies, and actionable methods on how to optimally increase revenues and profitability.