Corporate chief executives in the U.S. are more confident that the world's largest economy is on the road to recovery as the job market stabilizes and business investment increases, a private survey found.
The Business Council's confidence gauge climbed to 64.7 this month, the highest level in at least four years and up from 63.2 in October, a report from the Washington group showed. Readings greater than 50 signal economic growth.
Almost 70% of the executives surveyed said employment at their companies would probably remain stable this year, indicating the economy will be slow to recover the 8.4 million jobs lost since the recession began. By contrast, the portion of CEOs who said they would invest more on new plants and equipment doubled to almost 50%.
"These are encouraging signs, even if not all of us believe that the recovery is, as yet, underway," JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said in a statement for the group of CEOs. "Business looks to be getting back into business -- though there remains much to be cautious about."
The rate of economic growth in the U.S. this year will be 2.1% to 3%, according to 51% of those polled. An additional 41% projected the economy will expand as much as 2%. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News this month expect 3% growth this year, according to the median forecast.
By the end of the year, unemployment will be within a range of 9.6% to 10%, according to 61% of the company chiefs. The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 9.7% in January from 10% the previous month, the Labor Department said this month.
About 30% of respondents said they expected President Obama's $787-billion stimulus package to "have little or no impact on the economy in 2010," with more than half saying it would have a similar effect on job creation, according to the report.
The survey also found that 57% of executives had seen an improvement in their industries in the last six months and about 61% expected the gains to continue during the next six months.