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Middle Market Momentum: How Firms Maintain Growth in an Evolving Economy


Lauren Miller

March 28, 2024 - 12:23 pm


Unwavering Confidence: Middle Market Firms Signal Strong Economic Prognosis Amidst Moderation

CHICAGO, March 28, 2024 – The latest readings from the RSM US Middle Market Business Index (MMBI), a collaboration between RSM US LLP ("RSM") and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, indicate a slight tempering to 130.8 in the initial months of 2024 from a previous 132.3. Despite the minor decline, the index continues to reflect a vibrant, self-reliant economy and a thriving labor market, largely due to middle market companies steadfastly channeling profits into productivity enhancement measures.

As chief economist at RSM US LLP, Joe Brusuelas provides critical insights, observing that middle market executives maintain a bullish stance for the year ahead, regardless of economic growth decelerating from the previous year's vigorous 3.1% trajectory. It comes as no surprise that extensive investment over the past three years in production capabilities has manifested in an impressive 3.9% upturn in productivity across America in the recent three quarters. Though this surge is most likely unsustainable in the long term, Brusuelas emphasized that even maintaining productivity growth at or exceeding 2.5% is a positive omen for an accelerated economic pace, lasting low unemployment rates, and substantial price stability, altogether enhancing living standards across the board.

Solid Business Climate Invigorates Middle Market Outlook

The first-quarter MMBI survey paints a resilient economic picture, with close to half of middle market executives reporting an uptick in economic conditions. Slightly more than that perceived enhancements in their firms' gross revenues and net earnings, with nearly half amplifying their investments in capital expenditures.

The permeating optimism among the executives is palpable as they anticipate the next six months. A sizeable 62% of those surveyed forecast brighter economic conditions, and an even more optimistic 67% envisage an escalation in both revenues and net earnings in the upcoming half-year period.

Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, remarks on the staying power of this economic verve. Notably, even with increasing regulatory burdens and workforce dilemmas posing challenges and potentially curbing growth, middle market businesses harbor a positive economic and revenue growth outlook.

Concretizing this sentiment, an impressive 59% of surveyed executives intend to enhance their productivity-boosting capital expenditures. This marks the 14th consecutive quarter where a majority of respondents plan to augment investments in critical business assets such as software, equipment, and intellectual property.

Persistent Pricing Worries Counterbalanced by Strong Demand and a Robust Labor Market

Middle market firms continue to grapple with elevated prices for goods and services, a concern echoed by 73% of executives. A significant 68% foresee such increases to persist. Reflecting the pass-through effect, nearly half admitted to transferring these higher costs to their customers and 58% plan to continue this trend over the next six months.

In light of a decelerating inflation rate, the middle market segment may still wield a degree of pricing authority due to the solid overall demand. This is underscored by 45% of leaders signaling raised inventory levels this quarter, with 58% intending to boost their inventories further, anticipating substantial revenue and profit gains.

A potential indicator of easing pricing pressures and enhanced business circumstances is the noted decrease in planned borrowing. Only 19% of respondents feel that accessing credit has grown simpler, and just 43% are looking to borrow more capital, both figures representing a withdrawal from the previous year's patterns.

The labor market endures as steadfast as ever, with hiring and wage increments remaining firm. A noteworthy 44% of executives attested to increased hiring in the year's first quarter, with 58% planning to continue this trend. Additionally, to secure talent, over half have boosted employee compensation, with 65% set to escalate wages throughout the year. Given the market's proximity to full employment, attracting and retaining mid-career, value-adding employees is expected to be an enduring contest.

The index's findings stem from a survey conducted between January 8 and February 16, 2024, encompassing a broad swathe of 403 middle market executives.

Exploring the RSM US Middle Market Business Index

The RSM US Middle Market Business Index emerges from a strategic partnership between RSM US LLP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Impressively, it has its foundational research based on the data collected by Harris Poll starting from the first quarter of 2015. The survey process, repeated quarterly—every January, April, July, and October—relies on around 1,500 middle market executives to reflect the middle market's pulse accurately.

Designed in conjunction with Moody's Analytics, the MMBI's creation hails from a selected set of survey questions prompting respondents to report changes across a multitude of business metrics. A comprehensive 20 questions invite comparisons from the previous quarter and prognostications for the upcoming half-year concerning various dimensions like revenues, profits, capital expenditures, and hiring, paralleling other business surveys from respected institutions like the Institute of Supply Management and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The survey's specific focal points lead to diffusion indexes for each question. The aggregation of these, plus an additional 100 to avoid negative territory, comprises the composite MMBI. An index above 100 denotes an expanding middle market, while below 100 suggests contraction; the degree of separation from 100 signifies the expansion or contraction's strength.

About The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce stands proudly as the preeminent business federation globally, championing entities from versatile sectors and sizes. Its members, varying from quaint Main Street shops to prominent corporations, all rely on its influence to represent their interests in Washington and beyond. For over a century, the Chamber has been an ardent advocate for business-friendly policies, fostering job creation and economic advancement.


As frontrunners in the provision of professional services tailored for the middle market, RSM's clientele are the dynamos propelling global commerce and growth. In a dynamic business environment, RSM dedicates itself to cultivating premier services, instilling confidence amidst change, and enabling clients and personnel alike to harness their full capabilities. As a US affiliate of the global RSM International network, which includes independent assurance, tax, and consulting firms spanning 64,000 personnel across 120 nations, RSM is a beacon of innovation and trust in the business world.

For contact and further information, RSM's extensive digital presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offers a gateway to their services and insights. The full suite of information about RSM US LLP can be found at


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