CPAs who hold jobs as senior-level executives are far more pessimistic about the economy than they were a few months ago, according to a newly released survey by the American Institute of CPAs.

The AICPA polled 1,242 senior executives, including CFOs, CEOs, COOs and controllers, in October and found that only 30 percent of them were optimistic about the U.S. economic outlook over the next 12 months. That represented a 17 percent drop from the 47 percent who said in July they were optimistic, marking the lowest level in the three years since the AICPA began conducting the survey. Pessimism among the executives polled rose to 26 percent in the fourth quarter, an 11-point increase from the 15 percent of executives who responded in July.

More than half the CPAs surveyed cited subprime mortgage losses, the slowdown in the U.S. housing market and tightening credit conditions as reasons for their falling optimism. Other concerns were the rising prices of oil and gas, as well as the declining value of the U.S. dollar.

Despite the overall gloom about the economy, 60 percent of CPA executives expect to see growth in revenues and profits within their own organizations. Still, that was a decline of five percentage points from the 65 percent who expected growth in July. Only 48 percent of the executives expect to add employees over the next 12 months, while 18 percent foresee layoffs.

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