The mood among corporate bookkeepers is improving, another sign that the economy is likely on the mend.
Nearly 60 percent of the 657 U.S. chief financial officers surveyed this month by Duke University and CFO Magazine say they are more optimistic about the economy than they were three months ago.
But 43 percent said they still expect their companies to cut more jobs during the next year. And capital spending on new projects and investments is expected to drop 3 percent.
“The economy is showing signs of life in the U.S., with CFOs expecting earnings to grow over the next year and corporate optimism improving again this quarter,” said Kate O’Sullivan, senior writer at CFO Magazine, in a prepared statement. “While this suggests that the overall economy is stabilizing, the employment picture continues to deteriorate.”
The results mirror a similar quarterly survey conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and UNC-Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School. Released last month, the survey found that 39 percent of CFOs were "slightly more confident" about the economy.
CFOs are widely considering good barometers of the broader economy because they oversee corporation's financial results and shape fiscal decisions.
In the Duke survey, CFOs’ top concerns include weak consumer demand, federal government policies and credit markets. Top concerns about their own businesses include difficulty planning due to economic uncertainty, liquidity management and maintenance of employee morale.
Sixty-two percent of U.S. companies indicate they have fewer employees now than at the end of 2007. Only 13 percent say their workforce will return to 2007 levels sometime next year.
More than half do not anticipate reaching pre-recession employment levels again until 2012 or later.
"The bad news is two-fold: first, the outlook points to increased unemployment; second, there is an expected surge in outsourcing, suggesting many U.S. jobs could be lost forever,” said Campbell Harvey, founding director of the survey and international business professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.
The survey, which concluded Sept. 11, asked 1,537 CFOs from a broad range of global public and private companies about their expectations for the economy. Read the full survey online here.