The Conference Board
|501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in the United States|
|Headquarters||New York City, USA|
Number of locations
|Regional offices in Brussels, Beijing, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Singapore|
|Steve Odland, President and CEO|
|Products||Business membership and research organization|
Number of employees
The Conference Board, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit business membership and research group organization. It counts approximately 1,200 public and private corporations and other organizations as members, encompassing 60 countries. The Conference Board convenes conferences and peer-learning groups, conducts economic and business management research, and publishes several widely tracked economic indicators.
The organization was founded in 1916 as the National Industrial Conference Board (NICB). At the time, tensions between labor and management in the United States were seen as potentially explosive in the wake of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 and the Ludlow Massacre in 1914. In 1915 presidents of twelve major corporations in the United States and six leading industry associations met in Yama, New York to formulate the business community’s response to continued labor unrest and growing public criticism.
After additional crisis meetings, the National Industrial Conference Board was officially founded May 5, 1916, at the Hotel Gramatan in Bronxville, New York. Although many of the organizations’ founders—including former AT&T president Frederick P. Fish and General Electric executive Magnus W. Alexander, its first president—had supported the open-shop movement, by 1916 they regarded national unions such as the American Federation of Labor as permanent fixtures of the American economy, and urged negotiation and concord.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the National War Labor Board formed by President Woodrow Wilson asked the NICB to formulate plans that would keep war industries running and strife-free. Its recommendations—based on cooperation between representatives of employers, employees, and government—were adopted in full. During and after the war, the NCIB conducted pioneering research into workers' compensation laws and the eight-hour workday, and established the U.S. Cost of Living Index. Though often mistrusted in its early years as an “employers union” funding studies against the labor movement, the non-profit NICB was also seen “as a spokesman for the so-called progressive wing of the business community [and] produced hundreds of research reports on economic and social issues facing the United States.”
The organization today remains funded by the contributions of members, often Fortune 500 companies. By the 1930s, however, it had already lost most of its character as an industry lobby. Virgil Jordan, a writer and economist who replaced Alexander as president on the latter’s death in 1932, established a Bureau of Economic Audit and Control to offer members and the public an independent source of studies on unemployment, pensions, healthcare, and related issues in the midst of the Great Depression, when many questioned the credibility of the government’s economic statistics. Unions soon joined the NICB alongside corporations for access to its research, conferences, and executive network.
The organization is now considered an unbiased “trusted source for statistics and trends, second only to perhaps the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics”. After World War II, The Conference Board—the shortened name adopted in 1970—expanded to non-U.S. members for the first time. Today, it has offices in Brussels, Beijing, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The Conference Board of Canada was spun off as an independent non-profit in 1981.
The Conference Board publishes a number of regular indicators for United States and international economies that are widely tracked by investors and policy makers. They include:
- U.S. Consumer Confidence Index – Begun by The Conference Board in 1967, this monthly survey of 5,000 households is widely established as the leading measure of American consumer confidence. Results from the household survey are tabulated to provide a barometer of the U.S. economy (currently indexed to the year 1985 = 100).
- Leading Economic Indexes – In the 1960s, the U.S. Department of Commerce began researching and releasing business cycle indicators, which use composite data points (including manufacturing, construction, and stock market indicators) to time economic expansions, recessions, and recoveries. In December 1995, The Conference Board took over the business indicator program from the government and continues to publish leading, coincident, and trailing indexes for the U.S. economy each month. After going private, the program was also expanded to other countries; The Conference Board currently publishes leading, coincident, and trailing indexes for the UK, France, Germany, Spain, South Korea, Japan, China, Mexico, and the Euro Area.
- Employment Trends Index – Created in 2008, the Employment Trends Index aggregates eight separate indicators and “offers a short-term, forward look at employment [that] gives economists and investors a new forecasting tool. It also helps business executives sharpen their short- to medium-term hiring and compensation planning.”
- Help Wanted OnLine – The Help Wanted OnLine program uses crawler technology to survey job openings posted on approximately 1,000 online job boards. The monthly data series compares labor supply (job vacancies) against demand (unemployed workers) to determine the tightness of the job market for individual metro areas and occupation categories. The online program is the successor of the Help Wanted Advertising Index, which surveyed print newspaper ads.
- CEO Confidence Survey – The quarterly Measure of CEO Confidence gauges the outlook of chief executives in their own industries and the economy as a whole.
The organization also releases regular global and regional growth outlooks and commentaries on economic news. In 2008, The Conference Board named Professor Bart van Ark of the University of Groningen as its first non-U.S. chief economist.
Products and services
In addition to research reports, The Conference Board organizes conferences, leadership events, and professional peer networks. It is a leading source of knowledge about corporate governance, corporate performance, business ethics, corporate security, human resources management and global corporate citizenship, grouped into four major practice areas:
- Corporate Leadership including corporate governance,philanthropy & citizenship, and sustainability.
- Economy & Business Environment including economic indicators, consumer dynamics, innovation, and global value chains.
- Human Capital including diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, analytics, labor markets, and strategic workforce planning.
The Conference Board also published a magazine of ideas and opinion, which was called Across the Board from 1976 to 2006 and The Conference Board Review until June 2014, when production ceased. In 2003, The Conference Board's Commission on Public Trust and Private Enterprise, which included 12 prominent leaders from business and other sectors of society, issued a wide-ranging series of recommendations to help restore public trust in companies, their leaders and the capital markets. Many of these recommendations have been adopted. In 2009, The Conference Board convened a task force on executive compensation.
In February 2012, The Conference Board launched The Demand Institute in collaboration with Nielsen. The Demand Institute is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization focused on helping business and government leaders understand how consumer demand is evolving and shifting around the world.
In January 2015, the Committee for Economic Development (CED) merged with The Conference Board, given the many synergies between the two organizations. Both are non-partisan, non-lobbying, and have members comprised mainly from the business community. CED's trusted policy voice in the nation's capital of Washington, D.C. expands the reach of The Conference Board's research; The Conference Board's economic data further strengthens CED's policy solutions.
- Tranger, James. The New York Chronology: The Ultimate Compendium of Events, People and Anecdotes from the Dutch to the Present. ISBN 978-006052341-1. p. 356
- "Conference Board timeline" (PDF).
- “History.” National Industrial Conference Board Records. Hagley Museum and Library. http://www.hagley.org/library/collections/manuscripts/findingaids/acc1057nic.htm#99bio
- Laue, J. Charles. “Labor and Capital to Battle over Unionsm”. New York Times. October 31, 1926. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50C16F83D5D13738DDDA80B94D8415B868EF1D3
- Kleiman, Carol. “Conference Board: A Trusted Resource.” Chicago Tribune. March 8, 1987. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1987-03-08/news/8701180829_1_conference-board-labor-economist-fabian-linden
- “Consumer Confidence: An Online NewsHour Special Report.” The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. PBS. May 2001. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/economy/jan-june01/confidence_5-29.html
- "Conference Board: Composite Index Of Leading Indicators". 12 April 2005.
- "Press release" (PDF). www.conference-board.org.
- Staff, Investopedia (19 June 2005). "CEO Confidence Survey".
- "Bart van Ark named as Chief Economist of The Conference Board - News articles - News and Events - About us - University of Groningen". www.rug.nl.
- "The Conference Board Commission on Public Trust and Private Enterprise" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-06-14.
- Board, The Conference. "The Conference Board to Merge with the Committee for Economic Development". www.prnewswire.com.
- The Conference Board's Board of Trustees
- The Conference Board, Inc. website
- The Conference Board of Canada website
- Works by National Industrial Conference Board at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about The Conference Board at Internet Archive
- Industrial Conference Board Records. 1953-1963. 200 items. At the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.
- Online Books by National Industrial Conference Board at UPenn Library
- Publications by National Industrial Conference Board at Hathi Trust Digital Library
- Publications by Conference Board at Hathi Trust Digital Library
- Mises Institute: American Affairs 1945-1950