New ACCA and IMA Report: 2020 will be the worst for the global economy since WWII

Taylor Fenske
Stern Strategy Group 
(on behalf of IMA)
(908) 325-3866

Jeff Simmons
Anat Gerstein, Inc.
(on behalf of ACCA US)
(917) 673-0024

New York and Montvale, N.J., July 7, 2020 – The latest Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS) released today from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) for Q2 2020 found that while 2020 will be the worst for the global economy since World War II, North America is more optimistic about an imminent economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic than other regions across the globe.

The survey found that global confidence recovered slightly from a record low in Q1 2020, providing some optimism that recovery is on the horizon during the second half of the year. Despite this, many regions across the globe still face challenging economic times.

The Q2 2020 GECS, the largest regular economic survey of accountants around the world in terms of both the number of respondents and the range of economic variables it monitors, captured the true scale of the global recession caused by the response to the coronavirus pandemic. The full report is available here and at

The report notes that activity indicators covering orders, capital spending, and employment are at or close to record lows in most regions and that the global orders balance fell by 15 points, around twice its previous biggest quarterly drop, while other global measures of extreme weakness include plummeting employment indices and the rise in concern about customers and suppliers going out of business.  

The economic shock of the COVID-19 crisis is shifting unemployment rates from close to record lows late last year to extreme highs in the space of a few months. In the United States, the report notes, the unemployment rate rose to 13.3% in May from below 4% at the start of the year (but improved slightly to 11.1 percent in June, per the U.S. Department of Labor last week).

The report notes that headwinds for recovery are likely to remain in coming quarters amid social distancing and consumer caution. Earlier expectations of a sharp V-shaped recovery have given way to anticipation of a fairly long period to regain the level of output prior to the pandemic. For emerging markets, much will depend on commodity prices as well as the strength of any recovery in advanced economies. The authors note that for many economies, including the United States, it may not be until the second half of 2022 at the earliest when the country could reach the same level of output as existed at the end of 2019.

Yet, despite the troubling findings, respondents in North America were optimistic about a recovery. The survey found that over a third of respondents in North America expect a recovery during the current quarter spanning July to September.

“Confidence in Q2 was a mixed picture and globally there was a modest bounce from the record low in Q1. This unusual combination of very weak orders but slightly better confidence can be interpreted as expectations of a turning point – an unprecedented collapse in activity in the first half of the year, to be followed by some degree of recovery in the second half,” said Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, IMA vice president of research and policy.

The new survey introduced special COVID-19-related questions, which generated an overall 50-50 split between those expecting economic recovery in the second half of this year and those not expecting this until 2021.

Said Warner Johnston, Head of ACCA USA, “The mixed picture on confidence contrasts with the universally gloomy readings on activity indicators such as orders and employment. Recovery in confidence from Q1 lows can be interpreted as optimism about economic prospects over the second half of the year. In regions such as North America and Europe, the recovery in confidence was modest but in stark contrast with the large fall in orders in both regions.” 

The report also notes that the plunge in the GECS employment index reflects the dramatic surge in unemployment, particularly in the United States, and reasons that this is a downside risk to sustained recovery. 

While overall confidence ticked up slightly from a record low in Q1, hinting at a slightly brighter outlook, the portrait for 2021 depends on the trajectory of the virus.

Said Lawson, “On the assumption of no second wave of the virus that requires renewed lockdown measures, the global economy will recover in the second half of this year and through 2021. But the pace of expansion in 2021 is highly uncertain and will depend on developments in the health crisis, such as treatments or a vaccine as well as on economic factors such as policy, and consumer and business confidence.”

Added Johnston, “More generally, the degree of so-called scarring will become apparent; how much permanent damage has been done to economies and certain sectors such as hospitality, travel and tourism – and crucially how far and fast is unemployment falling across economies. It is unlikely that growth will be sufficient to lift the level of economic activity to its pre-crisis level by the end of next year.”

Fieldwork for the Q2 2020 GECS took place between May 29 and June 12, 2020 and attracted responses from 1,070 ACCA and IMA members around the world, including more than 100 CFOs. The COVID-19 questions elicited 805 responses.
About ACCA
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 

ACCA supports its 227,000 members and 544,000 students (including affiliates) in 176 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 110 offices and centres and 7,571 Approved Employers worldwide, and 328 approved learning providers who provide high standards of learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA has introduced major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here:

About IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants)
IMA®, named the 2017 and 2018 Professional Body of the Year by The Accountant/International Accounting Bulletin, is one of the largest and most respected associations focused exclusively on advancing the management accounting profession. Globally, IMA supports the profession through research, the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) and CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis) programs, continuing education, networking and advocacy of the highest ethical business practices. IMA has a global network of more than 125,000 members in 150 countries and 300 professional and student chapters. Headquartered in Montvale, N.J., USA, IMA provides localized services through its four global regions: The Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe, and Middle East/India. For more information about IMA, please visit