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April 25, 2012

The share of U.S. businesses expecting to add jobs in the coming six months has risen since earlier this year, while those reporting they have raised workers’ wages also increased, according to survey released on April 23, 2012 by the National Association for
Business Economics (NABE).

About 39% of NABE members said their company likely will increase employment over the next six months, up from 27% in January, while the proportion expecting a decrease in jobs rose to 13% from 8%, NABE said. The remaining 48% of survey participants said employment was likely to hold steady, down from 64% at the start of the year.

Another 59% of respondents said employment held steady in the first quarter, down from 62% in January, while the share reporting job losses climbed to 13% from 10%.

The latest quarterly survey was conducted from late March through April 9 among 55 economists and other NABE members employed by private sector firms and industry trade groups. The results reflect business conditions in the first quarter of 2012 and the outlook for the coming six months.

According to the NABE, a significantly higher share of participants (44%) reported that wages and salaries are rising in the April 2012 survey, relative to the previous four surveys. That was an increase from 26% in January who said their firms boosted pay over the last three months and from 35% in the first quarter of 2010.

About half of respondents (48%) said wages and salaries were unchanged in the most recent period, down from almost three-fourths (71%) in January, while the share reporting pay cuts rose to 8% from 3%.

The most common shortage experienced by businesses in the first quarter was skilled labor, cited by 25% of survey participants, up from 21% in the previous survey, while 70% reported no shortages of labor, materials, or capital goods.

Nine out of 10 respondents (89%) expect non-labor input prices will either remain unchanged or rise by 5% or less in the coming six months.

The latest survey also found NABE panelists are more optimistic about the outlook for the economy in 2012. The survey results suggest an improvement in economic conditions through higher sales and rising profit margins, continued optimism concerning real GDP growth, and continued price stability, although there are some indications of rising price pressures in wages.

Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) believe the nation’s real gross domestic product will grow between 2.1% and 3.0% this year, up from 60% in the January survey. Meanwhile, the share anticipating growth of 2.0% or less declined to 23% from 35%, while those predicting growth of 3.1% or more increased to 15% from 5%.

Sales improved noticeably in the first quarter, while more firms also reported rising profits. Some 60% of survey respondents said
sales of products and services increased in the past three months, up from 41% in January, while the share reporting falling sales declined to 10% from 19%. The remainder said sales held steady.

Meanwhile, 40% reported increased profits in the first three months of 2012, compared with 30% in the fourth quarter of last year, while those experiencing falling profits rose slightly, to 18% from 15%.   04.25.2012