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CEOs are optimistic about the economy — and that means more jobs

In a Business Roundtable survey, 52% of CEOs said they expected to increase hiring, while 11% expected to trim their workforces.

March 31, 2011|By Walter Hamilton, Los Angeles Times

The people who know best say U.S. companies will ramp up hiring this year.

Chief executives are more upbeat about the economy than they were at any time in the last eight years, a survey indicates.

And that optimism will translate into increased hiring and capital spending over the next six months, according to the data released Wednesday by the Business Roundtable, whose members are CEOs of big companies.

"Our CEOs see momentum in the economy over the next six months, with increased demand fueling greater investment and job creation," said Ivan G. Seidenberg, chairman of the business group and CEO of Verizon Communications Inc. "This shift continues a trend as reflected in recent employment data, with the private sector leading the way in creating more jobs."

Asked about the employment outlook, 52% said they expected to increase hiring, while 11% expected to trim their workforces. The remaining 37% predicted no change.

Another report issued Wednesday says U.S. companies added 201,000 jobs in March. The data from ADP Employer Services and Macroeconomic Advisors reinforce the perception that the labor market is gradually picking up steam.

The federal government's job report for March, due Friday, is expected to show a net gain of 190,000 jobs.

The CEOs queried by the Business Roundtable were the most optimistic in the survey's eight-year history. An index measuring their economic sentiment rose to 113 from 101 three months ago. The previous peak was 104.35 in early 2005.

An overwhelming 92% of the CEOs expect sales to increase in the next six months, with the rest forecasting no change. And 62% predict a rise in capital spending, versus 6% who foresee a decrease.

The CEOs on average expect the U.S. economy to expand 2.9% this year, after a contraction of 2.5% in the fourth quarter of last year.

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