US Middle Market Finishes 2016 with Strong Performance

January 25, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 25, 2017 -- U.S. middle market companies reported an average revenue growth of 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, capping off a strong year of overall growth, according to the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM). Combined with steady job gains, this finding from the NCMM's Q4 2016 Middle Market Indicator (MMI) points to strong fundamentals for middle market firms entering 2017. The full report can be downloaded at http://www.middlemarketcenter.org/performance-data-on-the-middle-market.

"Steady employment and revenue growth marked a strong end to 2016," said NCMM Executive Director Thomas A. Stewart. "Looking ahead, executives anticipate continued growth in the first quarter, a fantastic sign for middle market businesses in 2017."

The survey was administered in early December 2016, one month after the presidential election. It obtained responses from 1,000 CEOs, CFOs and other C-suite members of middle market firms, which are defined as companies with between $10 million and $1 billion in annual revenues.

Growing Confidence in U.S. and Global Economy as Employment Soars
The middle market ended 2016 on a high note, with economic confidence at record highs. Confidence in the U.S. economy is up 14 points year-over-year at 81 percent, while confidence in the global economy is at 65 percent (18 points year-over-year) and local economies at 86 percent (10 points year-over-year).

In addition to the record-high economic confidence measured in Q4, quarterly employment growth is now at the highest level observed since the MMI was established in 2012. The NCMM observed strong, accelerating employment growth over every quarter in 2016 to reach 5.4 percent in Q4. This is up half of a point from Q3 and soars above the historical average growth rate of 3.4 percent.

Construction Gains Highlight Five Years of MMI Data
The construction industry in particular has seen rapid job growth over the past five years. In Q1 2012, the middle market construction industry reported a 2.7 percent loss in jobs, the weakest employment numbers of any industry. Five years later, the construction industry posted a 9.3 percent gain in Q4 employment numbers – the strongest such data of any surveyed industry for the period.

"Construction's remarkable employment gains punctuate the overall trend of rising jobs numbers we saw over the past five years," said Stewart. "On top of closing the year at 12.6 percent quarterly revenue growth, the sector's executives project solid revenue gains for the year to come."

New Products and Services Fuel Growth and Expansion
According to the latest MMI report, 40 percent of companies surveyed introduced a new product or service in 2016, the most common method of business expansion. Second to this, 32 percent of middle market companies expanded into a new domestic market over the past 12 months. Firms with annual revenues between $50M and $100M were the most likely to expand their business using these methods compared to middle market businesses both smaller and larger.

Looking ahead to 2017, 42 percent of executives say that their firms expect to introduce a new product or service and a similar 41 percent plan to expand into a new domestic market. Additionally, one in three (35 percent) of large middle market firms ($100M - $1B in revenue) plan to make an acquisition in the next 12 months to expand their business, outpacing the middle market average of one in four companies that are eyeing M&A activity in the year ahead.

About the U.S. Middle Market
A major driving force in the U.S. economy, the middle market delivers above its own expectations year-over-year. Middle market companies – those with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion – provide roughly one third of the United States' total employment and GDP. As an individual market segment, it is comparable to the economies of Germany and Japan.

About the Middle Market Indicator (MMI)        
The MMI surveys 1,007 executives (CEOs, CFOs and other members of the C-Suite) from the middle market each quarter 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 December 2016. 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.

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 National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM)
The National Center for the Middle Market is a collaboration between The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, SunTrust Banks, Inc., Cisco Systems, Inc. and Grant Thornton LLP. 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's Fisher College of Business, the National Center for the Middle Market is the first center of its kind in the nation. The Center 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.

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