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CEOs are upbeat -- and that means more jobs for the rest of us

March 30, 2011 | 11:56 am

The people who know best say U.S. companies will ramp up hiring this year.

A survey Wednesday showed U.S. chief executives to be the most upbeat about the economy since before the global financial crisis. And that optimism will translate into increased hiring and capital spending over the next six months, according to the poll by the Business Roundtable, a CEO trade group.

“Our CEOs see momentum in the economy over the next six months, with increased demand fueling greater investment and job creation,” said Ivan G. Seidenberg, chairman of the Business Roundtable and CEO of Verizon Communications. “This shift continues a trend as reflected in recent employment data, with the private sector leading the way in creating more jobs.”

Asked about the employment outlook, 52% said they expect to increase hiring vs. only 11% who expect to decrease their workforces. The other 37% predicted no change.

That coincided with the release of another report showing that U.S. companies added 201,000 jobs this month. The report from ADP Employer Services and Macroeconomic Advisors reinforced the perception that the labor market is gradually picking up steam.

The federal government on Friday will release its monthly unemployment report, which is expected to show a gain of 190,000 nonfarm jobs in March.

The CEOs queried by the Business Roundtable were the most optimistic in the survey’s eight-year history. An index measuring their economic sentiment rose to 113 from 101 three months ago. The prior peak was 104.35 in early 2005.

A whopping 92% expect sales to increase in the next six months, with the rest forecasting no change. And 62% predict a rise in capital spending vs. 6% who foresee a decrease.

The CEOs expect the U.S. economy will expand 2.9% this year, up from the 2.5% they predicted three months ago.

-- Walter Hamilton