MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — A new survey of the Tennessee business community shows a lot of concern about the current economy, but also optimism about the near future.

Professor Michael Peasley, director of the Office of Consumer Research at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), is poring over data from the Tennessee Business Barometer.

The current mood among the 222 business leaders surveyed is reportedly the gloomiest it’s been since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s the lowest it’s been since COVID, and the second lowest it’s been in the history of us collecting this data,” said Peasley. “People are very concerned about the current environment that we’re in for the economy.”

Peasley anonymously surveyed 12 sectors this quarter, including banking, insurance, financial, and information technology. He asked about profit, investment, staffing, and research, to name a few. Although the mood is negative this quarter, the business community said the near future looks brighter.

“It’s nice to know that Tennessee business leaders are typically a little more positive about things, and that we have really good, strong economic conditions here,” Peasley said.

According to Peasley, certain developments — like supply chain fears easing and wages not shooting higher — are good for stamping out inflation.

“Those fears don’t seem to be showing any longer, as wages have come down a little bit, and these business leaders have seen inflation come down, as well,” he said.

In addition, employers appear confident moving forward. In the next year, 22% of business leaders plan to add staff, 8% plan to make cuts, and most plan to keep staffing steady, as they carefully monitor what the next three quarters of 2023 will bring.

“In the national economy, we’ve seen, in the tech sector, lots of layoffs, but most of Tennessee businesses don’t expect to have a lot of layoffs,” Peasley added.

The Office of Consumer Research at MTSU has been doing the Tennessee Business Barometer since 2015. The next survey goes out in June.