A Washington Post poll of 63 area business leaders contained good, but not great, news for local workers. All but two of the executives said their companies plan to grant pay raises to their full-time employees this year.
The typical raise: about 5 percent. That roughly matches the rate of inflation predicted locally in 1988.
To sample the opinion of area business leaders on the local economy, The Post interviewed executives of 63 of the 100 largest companies with substantial operations in the Washington region.
The survey showed that executives gave generally high marks to the local economy. Slightly more than two of five of those polled rated the local economy as excellent, while slightly more than half rated it as good. Only one executive rated the local economy as fair and none characterized it as poor.
But this positive view did not spill over into their views on the chances for local economic growth in 1988.
The survey found the executives split over whether 1988 will be better or worse than 1987. About half the executives said they expected no change in the overall local economy, while about the same number said the economy would improve as said it would worsen.
The apparent conclusion: little expectation that the area economy will do as well as it did last year.
Nearly all the executives -- 61 of 63 -- said the Washington area was less vulnerable to recession than other parts of the United States. The other two executives said the area was about as susceptible to recession as other areas of the nation. About half said Washington was less vulnerable to recession today than it was 10 years ago.
The survey showed that three of four respondents said 1988 would be a good time to expand a business, and three of five said they planned to increase their full-time work force at their companies in 1988.
Nearly one of every five executives -- 18 percent -- said it was a bad time to expand their business, and 30 percent of the executives said they had no plans to expand. Another 6 percent said they planned to decrease employment.
Nine of 10 executives said their companies earned a profit in 1987, and about four of five said they expected their profits to increase this year from 1987.
The survey results suggest that the stock market crash on Oct. 19 had little, if any, impact on local businesses. Only about one of 10 executives said the recent stock market decline had a "big" impact on their companies.
One out of four said the stock drop had a small impact, while nearly two out of three said it had no impact at all.
Slightly more than one of every five executives said the federal budget deficit was the biggest problem facing the local economy. The deficit was followed by concerns about the area's labor shortage and uncertainties about the upcoming elections.
Transportation problems, a sluggish national economy, overbuilding of office buildings and flagging confidence in the stock market also were mentioned as Washington's biggest economic problems.
More than half of those surveyed -- 55 percent -- said the federal deficit was the single biggest problem threatening the national economy. Another 21 percent mentioned the nation's trade deficit as the biggest problem. Eroding confidence in the stock market and declining confidence in Congress to act on the nation's problems also were mentioned.
For this poll, The Post interviewed ranking executives with 63 of the 100 largest companies based in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Executives with the remaining 37 companies were either unavailable or declined to be interviewed.
The chief executive officer of each company was contacted by telephone and interviewed between Jan. 14 to 21. In some cases, the chief financial officer or a senior vice president was interviewed.
The results should be interpreted with some caution. While the findings likely reflect the general views of executives of larger companies in the Washington area, they should not be considered to be reliable estimates of the attitudes of the entire Washington area business community.