March 28, 2024


CHICAGO – The RSM US Middle Market Business Index (MMBI), presented by RSM US LLP (“RSM”) in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, eased slightly to 130.8 in the first quarter from 132.3 at the close of last year on a seasonally adjusted basis. The MMBI survey results reflect a self-sustaining economy and robust labor market supported by middle market firms that continue to reinvest earnings into productivity-enhancing expenditures.

“The primary takeaway from this quarter’s survey is that middle market executives are bullish on the year even as economic growth moderates from the blistering 3.1% pace of last year,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist with RSM US LLP. “It is not surprising that a three-year period of solid investment in firms’ ability to produce has resulted in an average increase of 3.9% in American productivity over the past three quarters. While such robust gains in productivity are unsustainable, anything at or above 2.5% bodes well for an economy that can grow at a faster pace, retain a low unemployment rate and obtain price stability, all while bolstering living standards for all.”

Middle Market Firms Optimistic About Future Economic Conditions, Revenues and Net Earnings

MMBI survey results from the first quarter reflect the economy’s resilience, with 45% of middle market executives noting an improvement in current economic conditions. Forty-six percent of respondents also said their gross revenue and net earnings improved in the first quarter and 48% said they accelerated their investments in capital expenditures.

A sense of optimism is inferred from respondents when asked about their expectations over the next six months. Sixty-two percent of executives said they anticipate an improvement in economic conditions and 67% said they expect an improvement in both net earnings and revenues over the next half year.

​ “Middle market businesses’ continued optimism reflects the U.S. economy’s ongoing strength,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It’s encouraging that businesses in the middle market remain positive about the economic outlook and their own revenue growth despite the fact that rising regulatory burdens and workforce challenges are creating headwinds and constraining growth.”

Further underscoring the buoyant outlook among middle market executives, 59% indicated they intend to bolster productivity-enhancing capital expenditures. Notably, for 14 straight quarters, most survey respondents have said they plan to increase outlays on software, equipment and intellectual property that make up cumulative capital expenditures.

Pricing Concerns Remain, though Demand is Strong and Competitive Labor Market Persists  

Pricing continues to be a top concern in the middle market. Seventy-three percent of executives said they paid higher prices for goods and services, while 68% expect to do so going forward. Nearly half (48%) said they passed along those higher prices and 58% indicated they intend to do so over the next six months.

Although inflation is slowing, RSM anticipates middle market firms will retain some measure of pricing power given the strong level of aggregate demand, which underscores the fact that 45% of executives said they increased inventories this quarter. In addition, 58% said they intend to increase inventories over the next six months, reflecting robust expectations around gross revenues and net earnings.

One sign that may indicate that robust business conditions and rising revenues have provided a much-needed respite from the pricing pressures of the past three years is a decline in planned borrowing. Only 19% of respondents said they increased planned borrowing this quarter and 43% of participants said they plan to borrow more capital going forward – both figures eased from last year.

Hiring and compensation remained rock solid in the first quarter, with 44% of executives noting they had increased hiring and 58% saying they intend to do so over the next six months. In addition, 54% of executives said they increased compensation to obtain workers and 65% said they expect to do so this year. With the U.S. economy at what RSM considers to be full employment, wage competition for midcareer, value-adding employees will remain challenging.

The survey data that informs this index reading was gathered from 403 respondents between Jan. 8 and Feb. 16, 2024.

About the RSM US Middle Market Business Index

RSM US LLP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have partnered to present the RSM US Middle Market Business Index (MMBI). It is based on research of middle market firms conducted by Harris Poll, which began in the first quarter of 2015. The survey is conducted four times a year, in the first month of each quarter: January, April, July and October. The survey panel consists of approximately 1,500 middle market executives and is designed to accurately reflect conditions in the middle market. 

Built in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics, the MMBI is borne out of the subset of questions in the survey that asks respondents to report the change in a variety of indicators. Respondents are asked a total of 20 questions patterned after those in other qualitative business surveys, such as those from the Institute of Supply Management and National Federation of Independent Businesses. 

The 20 questions relate to changes in various measures of their business, such as revenues, profits, capital expenditures, hiring, employee compensation, prices paid, prices received and inventories. There are also questions that pertain to the economy and outlook, as well as to credit availability and borrowing. For 10 of the questions, respondents are asked to report the change from the previous quarter; for the other 10 they are asked to state the likely direction of these same indicators six months ahead. 

The responses to each question are reported as diffusion indexes. The MMBI is a composite index computed as an equal weighted sum of the diffusion indexes for 10 survey questions plus 100 to keep the MMBI from becoming negative. A reading above 100 for the MMBI indicates that the middle market is generally expanding; below 100 indicates that it is generally contracting. The distance from 100 is indicative of the strength of the expansion or contraction. 

About The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing companies of all sizes across every sector of the economy. Members range from the small businesses and local chambers of commerce that line the Main Streets of America to leading industry associations and large corporations.  

They all share one thing:  They count on the U.S. Chamber to be their voice in Washington, across the country, and around the world. For more than 100 years, we have advocated for pro-business policies that help businesses create jobs and grow our economy.  


RSM is the leading provider of professional services to the middle market. The clients we serve are the engine of global commerce and economic growth, and we are focused on developing leading professionals and services to meet their evolving needs in today’s ever-changing business landscape. Our purpose is to instill confidence in a world of change, empowering our clients and people to realize their full potential.

RSM US LLP is the U.S. member of RSM International, a global network of independent assurance, tax and consulting firms with 64,000 people in 120 countries. For more information, visit, like us on Facebook, follow us on X and/or connect with us on LinkedIn.