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58% of CEOs plan on hiring in the year ahead

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58% of CEOs plan on hiring in the year ahead

Highest percentage since 2007.

CEOs in the latest survey from private company advisory firm Vistage maintained their economic optimism at the same high level as in late 2013, despite the negative impact from the harsh winter.

This increase in confidence was most strongly reflected by record-setting increases in hiring. Among all firms in the 1st quarter survey, 58% planned on expanding their payrolls during the year ahead. This was the highest level recorded since the start of 2007, seven years ago.

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"Firms reported the top issue they were now facing was finding, hiring, and training new staff, easily exceeding concerns about health care costs and economic uncertainty."

Given these expansive plans it should be no surprise that firms reported the top issue they were now facing was finding, hiring, and training new staff, easily exceeding concerns about health care costs and economic uncertainty. Three-in-four firms reported using management training and leadership development programs, with 47% of all firms intending to increase their investments in such training.

Confidence Remains Steady.

The Vistage Confidence Index was 101.3 in the 1st quarter 2014 survey, virtually identical to the 101.5 in the 4th quarter of 2013, but well above the 96.6 in last year’s 1st quarter. The past two surveys set the highest average six-month level of confidence in three years. The harsh winter was reflected in more negative evaluations of current economic conditions, but firms reported increases in employment and investment intentions compared to either last quarter and last year. Firms anticipated that the economy would improve in the year ahead, with revenues and profits rebounding as well. The impact of the foul weather was expected to be temporary, even if hopes for an early spring have been dashed. The improved level of confidence, however, owes much to the absence of the disabling sense of uncertainty about federal economic policies. While proposals by Obama regarding minimum wages and overtime pay are a top concern, the most pressing concerns of firms today have more to do with finding, hiring, training, and retaining key employees to expand their businesses. While defensive play is always necessary, firms have adopted an aggressive offense so they can score new customers as well as retain current customers.

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