Welcome to Accounting Today's inaugural Accountants Confidence Index. The ACI, created in partnership with ADP, is a new monthly economic indicator that leverages the insights of accountants into the strength and prospects of businesses in the U.S.

The ACI is created from a monthly poll of the Accounting Today Executive Research Council, an online community of more than one thousand tax and accounting professionals, who are asked to provide their estimates of the growth prospects of their own firms, their small, midsized and large business clients, and of the U.S. economy as a whole. Their responses are weighted and averaged to produce the ACI.

The results of the initial survey, conducted in late August, indicate that accountants expect flat or low growth over the next three months, though the 417 survey participants were slightly more optimistic about the mid-term prospects.

Members of the ERC were also polled about the biggest barriers to their clients' growth, their expectations for employment growth, and the strategies their own firms are using to navigate the sluggish economy -- their answers appear below.

"Accountants have their fingers on the pulse of American business and the American economy," said Bill Carlino, Editor-in-Chief of Accounting Today. "We created the ACI to tap into their extraordinary insight, and we expect that the index will rapidly become a much-consulted guidepost to the future direction of the economy."

"We're excited to partner with Accounting Today on the Accountants Confidence Index," said Anish Rajparia, president of ADP's Small Business Services. "ADP works closely with hundreds of thousands of businesses, many of which are accounting and other professional service firms themselves. Our research shows that accountants are singled out by small business owners as their 'most trusted advisors.' As a result, accountants have unique insights into businesses and the economy, which gives the ACI distinct credibility and relevance," Rajparia added.