Lower hiring expectations and a steep drop in optimism about the U.S. economy summed up the uncertain mood of CPA financial executives who took part in the AICPA’s Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey for the second quarter of 2012. Optimism about the U.S. economy dropped significantly after rising for two straight quarters.

The employment forecast is consistent with other recent signs of hiring slowdowns and represents a significant shift from the previous quarter, when CPA decision-makers from each of the 10 industries in the survey expected to increase their number of employees.

Jim Morrison, chairman of the AICPA’s Business & Industry Executive Committee, said the views on the U.S. economy in the survey reflect a “correction” in previous optimism that also has been seen in the stock market.

“I think it’s more of a wait and see rather than continue to be optimistic that things are going to get better,” said Morrison, the CFO of Pawtucket, R.I.-based materials science company Teknor Apex.

Hiring plans varied by industry. The survey, which included qualified responses from 1,250 CPA executives in business and industry, showed six industries forecasting an increase in their number of employees in the next 12 months. Technology, with predictions of a 1.3% staffing increase, was the most optimistic for hiring. Also expecting staffing increases, all of less than 1%, were retail trade, scientific and technical professional services, manufacturing, health care other (which includes pharmaceuticals and medical device suppliers), and finance and insurance.

Four industries—health care providers, wholesale trade, construction, and real estate/ property—expect staffing decreases. Health care providers were the most pessimistic, predicting a 1.3% reduction in employees. All 10 industries reported less optimistic staffing forecasts than in the first quarter of the year.

More information on the survey is available at


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