Washington (March 5, 2004) -- The nation's chief executives appear optimistic about the economic outlook for the remainder of the year, with more CEOs predicting job increases than losses for the first time in a year and a half, according to a report released this week by the Business Roundtable.

About a third of CEOs (33 percent) are projecting job increases in the next six months, up from 25 percent in December, according to the Business Roundtable's March 2004 CEO Economic Outlook survey of 122 member companies. This month's poll marks the first time since the survey began in the fall of 2002 that a larger percentage of CEOs are projecting their companies will add jobs than are expecting employment declines.

According to the survey, 78 percent of the CEOs projected that employment at their companies would increase or remain the same in the next six months -- the highest level since the survey began and 23 percentage points above the 55 percent figure nearly a year ago in April 2003. Only 22 percent predict employment decreases in the next six months.

“America’s CEOs believe that the U.S. economy is on course for continued steady improvement over the next six months,” said Pfizer Inc. CEO Hank A. McKinnell, chairman of the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers. “Our new CEO Economic Outlook Survey shows that companies expect to add jobs, further gains in capital spending, and strong levels of projected sales.”

On average, CEOs expect real GDP growth to be 3.7 percent in 2004 -- a slight improvement over December's 3.6 percent projection. By comparison, the average annual GDP growth over the past year was 3.1 percent. In addition, 88 percent expect their company’s sales to increase in the next six months.

-- WebCPA staff

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