In a sign of improved business hiring, 73 percent of accountants said their business clients are planning to increase or maintain their number of employees over the next 12 months, while only 5 percent indicated their business clients plan to reduce their number of employees during that period, according to a new survey by the financial information company Sageworks.

In comparison to the results from a similar survey conducted in 2012 and 2014, the greatest percentage of accountant respondents this year (33.9 percent) said their business cloients are increasing or significantly increasing their headcount, while the lowest percentage of respondents (5.2 percent) indicated their clients are reducing their headcount. In contrast, 13 percent and 13.5 percent of respondents in 2012 and 2014, respectively, saw businesses increasing their number of employees and 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively, reported businesses planned to reduce their headcount.

This year’s survey also asked accountants whether their business clients have expressed concern related to a number of topics. Topping the list of business concerns are increasing regulatory requirements (cited by 39.1 percent of the poll respondents), the upcoming presidential election (33.7 percent), obtaining outside financing (30.3 percent), changes to minimum wage requirements (27.1 percent) and changes to overtime requirements (14.3 percent). Stock market volatility presented the least concern to business owners, with only 12.3 percent expressing concern.

“There is a complete disconnect between the reality of the economy and what business owners are doing,” said Sageworks Chairman Brian Hamilton in a statement. “GDP has been lackluster for at least the past six months, yet businesses are optimistic about hiring, which is really increasing their overhead. As noted in our survey, as compared to 2012, business owners are off the fence and are hiring and planning to hire. This will not be good if their sales flatten off, which GDP is indicating."

Sageworks conducted the online survey between March 31, 2016, and April 24, 2016, collecting responses from 385 accounting professionals from approximately 336 unique accounting and business advisory firms. The poll’s respondents were all clients of Sageworks and were not randomly selected.

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