As prices have surged, inflation has soared as a worry for global executives, overtaking concerns about Covid-19 disruptions in some regions, according to a survey released last week.

In a “seismic shift”, inflation now ranks second on the list of top external concerns after labour shortages, up from 22nd last year, according to the survey by the Conference Board of some 1,600 global CEOs and C-suite executives.

More than half, or 55 per cent, of the group expect to see price pressures through mid-2023 or beyond, the survey said.

US consumer prices in 2021 rose at the fastest pace in four decades, according to government data released last week. However, consumer price index (CPI) growth slowed last month from November, indicating the price surge may be nearing a peak.

That slowing also was reflected in producer price data for December released last week which showed falling prices for energy and food.

The Conference Board noted that many organisations have workforces that “likely never experienced inflation’s broad influence on product pricing and sourcing decisions, customer relations and cash management, and above all, on wages”.

Firms will have to cope by “cutting costs, passing increases downstream to consumers … and absorbing price increases into profit margins”, the report said, adding that few see changing vendors as a viable alternative.

US Federal Reserve (Fed) chair Jerome Powell had initially described pricing pressures as the result “transitory” supply chain problems that were expected to ease relatively quickly.

But he has backed off that characterisation as inflation pressures have persisted, and the Fed is preparing to raise interest rates this year to tamp down rising prices.

Inflation ranked as the top concern among European CEOs, but fourth in China and outside the top 10 in Japan. In both China and Japan, Covid-19 related disruptions ranked as the top worry.