CPAs serving as chief executive officers, chief financial officers and in other financial positions are less optimistic about the U.S. economy than they were six months ago, according to the results of a semi-annual study conducted by the American Institute of CPAs.

According the AICPA's latest business and industry economic outlook survey, only 57 percent of the CPA decisionmakers have a positive outlook on the state of the economy, as opposed to 71 percent in December, when the last survey took place. However, nearly three-quarters of the of the respondents expressed continued optimism about the prospects for their own organizations -- similar to December's results.

"What's particularly interesting is that despite the concerns about the economy, expectations for growth, spending and workforce increases continue to be robust at the individual company level," said AICPA vice president for members in business and industry John Morrow, in a statement.

Morrow said the one potential area of weakness revealed by the survey is in the workforce plans for the largest companies. Only 12 percent of the total said their organizations would decrease the size of their workforces in the next six months. He noted that 22 percent of those working for companies with revenues of more than $1 billion reported plans for workforce reductions.

The major concerns fueling their reservations about the economy are ballooning energy and employee costs; increased regulation; and the cascade effect of Sarbanes-Oxley Act provisions.

More than 50 percent of the respondents reported being more concerned about these issues than they were six months ago.

The survey, conducted in June, represents the views of 1,465 AICPA members in public and privately held companies, government, and not-for-profit organizations. The complete survey results and a statistical breakdown of the respondents, is available online at the AICPA Financial Management Center, http://fmcenter.aicpa.org/.

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