Poll Says CEO Confidence Hits 20-Year High

A new survey says chief executives’ confidence in the U.S. economy has risen to the highest level in 20 years.

"Half of all CEOs surveyed anticipate an increase in hiring plans over the course of the year, suggesting labor market growth should gain momentum in the months ahead," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's consumer research center.

A year ago, only 16 percent of CEOs surveyed believed employment levels in their industry would increase, Reuters reported.

The Department of Labor announced Friday that U.S. employers created 308,000 new jobs in March, the biggest one-month gain in four years. That's more jobs than the previous four months combined and an indication that employers have started hiring after three years of little job growth. The Conference Board’s quarterly report, released Monday, said health care costs "remain the major obstacle to hiring new workers."

The Conference Board is a New York-based nonprofit group that tracks business trends. The board surveyed 100 CEOs in a variety of industries, and found that the first quarter’s "business-sentiment index" was the highest since the final quarter of 1983.

The index was 66 in the last quarter of 2003, 73 in the first quarter of this year, and 74 in 1983. Index readings above 50 indicate more positive responses than negative ones.

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