Job Outlook Hits 10-Year High

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — America may be moving out of the financial dark ages at last.

The employment outlook at companies around the country is the best it has been in more than a decade, as nearly half of all businesses plan to increase their staffs in the next six months, according to a new survey from the National Association of Business Economics.

In total, 42% of the businesses surveyed said they plan to boost employment in the next six months, up from 39% in the previous financial quarter and significantly higher than the 29% who planned to do so in January of last year. By contrast, the percentage of firms that plan to cut jobs decreased from an average of 13% last year to just 6% this quarter.

In fact, the gap between the number of firms planning to hire and the number of firms planning to fire is the widest it’s been at any point since 1998, mostly due to an increase in consumer demand and in the confidence of businesses in the economic recovery.

"The number of firms expressing positive hiring plans is at a level not seen in over a decade—a sign of improving labor-market dynamics,” said Shawn DuBravac, an economist with the Consumer Electronics Association, who oversaw the survey. “Supporting these hiring plans, industry demand continues to move higher, and profit margins are expanding.”

According to the survey, which is based on interviews with economists representing 84 businesses and trade groups around the country, the majority of businesses (55%) are beginning to experience an increase in consumer demand, fueling their optimistic hiring plans going forward. Likewise, more than 60% of those surveyed expect the economy to grow at a rate of 2%-3%.

Taken together, it seems America’s businesses finally believe the recovery is in full swing and are ready to act on it by increasing their payrolls. And really, it’s about time. U.S. companies are currently sitting on trillions of dollars in cash reserves, while millions of unemployed Americans continue to sit on the sidelines, waiting for job opportunities to pop up.

Perhaps 2011 will be the year when the country finally goes back to work.

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