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Business Executives Report Brighter Economic Prospects

Level of optimism matches post-recession high set in mid-2013, survey finds.

By University Alliance on August 11, 2014
Corporate Leaders Report Rising Optimism

Business executives are upbeat about hiring and prospects for growth at their companies over the next 12 months, in part, due to generally increased optimism about the U.S. economy, a new survey has found.

That view comes from chief executive officers, chief financial officers, controllers and others in executive and senior management accounting roles at U.S. companies who participated in the first-quarter Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Among survey respondents, 15% said they planned to hire new workers as soon as possible, an increase of 2 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2013, while 56% of executives believe their companies have the right number of employees.

Meanwhile, the percentage of survey takers who said their companies had too many employees also dropped 2 percentage points, from 10% to 8%, the AICPA reported in March 2014.

As for the overall economic outlook, 49% of execs said they are optimistic or very optimistic about the economy, compared to 38% in the previous quarter. The latest figure matches the post-recession high set in the second quarter of 2013.

The improved outlook for the economy has bolstered corporate executives’ views about their own company’s expansion, spending and hiring prospects.

“Those who are optimistic most frequently cited the employment situation, consumer spending and improvement in the political/leadership situation as well as earnings and profits as the rationale for their optimism,” the report states.

Ongoing concerns about the political situation in Washington and continuing controversy over the federal Affordable Care Act were among the reasons cited for pessimism about the economy.

Though optimistic about hiring, executives cited labor costs as the most significant risk to their businesses, increasing in the first quarter to 34%, up from 23% since the fourth quarter of 2012.

Executives projected 2.9% growth in hiring in the technology sector over the next year, a rate only surpassed by the professional services sector at 3%, nearly double the 1.6% hiring growth rate reported for professional services in the final quarter of 2013.

Retail is forecast to ring up hiring at a rate of 2.5% in 2014, with 2.2% growth anticipated in finance and insurance, 2.8% in construction and 2.1% in manufacturing.

“We’re seeing signs that businesses are thinking more concretely about resources they’ll need in place, from expanded staffing to investments in technology and other capital projects, to handle future growth,” Arleen Thomas, AICPA’s senior vice president of management accounting and global markets, said in a statement.

Category: 2014 Headlines