Survey: Optimism Ticks Up

While still maintaining serious concerns about the economy, U.S. executives have grown more optimistic about revenue and profit expectations and other key indicators for the coming year – if only slightly so.

While only 23% of respondents in the latest AICPA Economic Outlook Survey expressed optimism about the U.S. economy’s prospects over the next 12 months, that still represents a dramatic jump from the previous survey when just 12% felt that way – the measure’s lowest level since early 2009. Even with this uptick, however, the first-quarter edition of the poll, which surveyed 483 CPAs who hold leadership positions during the period of Feb. 7 and March 1, found that 90% of participants remain concerned about recessionary impacts.

Given these concerns, almost a third of executives (32%) said they were taking steps to bring down staffing costs, with 17% having instituted hiring freezes and ceased recruitment of open jobs. Other strategies, employed to a lesser extent, include layoffs, reduced shifts/hours of operation and increased outsourcing.

“While hiring demands may be cooling a bit, we’re not seeing widespread layoffs – most companies are looking to interim strategies to protect their workforce options,” says Tom Hood, executive vice president for business engagement and growth for AICPA and CIMA. “In fact, a third of business executives say they’re looking to hire immediately, while ‘availability of skilled personnel’ continues to be a top concern from the survey. This illustrates the unique pressures companies have been under the past year, with so much uncertainty clouding financial modeling,”

Among the other key findings in this edition of the survey:

  • Respondents who expressed optimism about their own organizations’ prospects over the next 12 months increased from 35% to 47%, quarter over quarter.
  • Executives’ 12-month outlook on the global economy also improved, with those expressing pessimism dropping from 72% last quarter to 48% now.
  • Inflation was the top concern of survey participants for the sixth straight quarter, while “availability of skilled personnel” and “employee and benefit costs” again rounded out the top three challenges.


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