Job seekers will find little good news in the latest quarterly survey of corporate chief financial officers with the finance execs’ optimism about the economy declining after two consecutive gains.

“Hiring will be minimal – less than 1 percent over the next year,” Duke University and CFO Magazine warn in the report, which was issued Wednesday.

Meanwhile, CFO optimism about their own firm’s prospects and that of the overall U.S. economy declined after increasing the past two quarters.

“CFOs are telling us we are stuck at 9 percent unemployment for the next year,” said Campbell Harvey, a professor of finance at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and founding director of the survey, in a statement. “One leg of the economy is shackled by extraordinarily high unemployment and the other by the housing market still in a free fall. Obviously, it is hard for the economy to move forward.”

The Duke-Fuqua survey was somewhat more positive than the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and UNC-CH that was issued last week.

The percentage of optimistic execs fell to 33 percent from 48 percent the previous quarter, while pessimism grew to 27 percent, up nine percentage points. (Read details here.)

With North Carolina and U.S. unemployment above 9 percent, little change is expected by CFOs over the next year. The CFOs project a 0.7 percent increase in employment with fewer than 100,000 jobs expected to be added each month.

An estimated 300,000 new jobs are needed per month to drive down unemployment and some 125,000 to handle an expanding population, according to various economists.

Some 21 percent of companies are planning to add workers, with demand highest in technology, retail and wholesale as well as energy.

Workers most in demand include engineers, product development, sales and finance.

One problem for companies is difficulty in finding skilled workers with almost 10 percent saying they would like to hire “but cannot find employees with the right skills.”

“Overall, there is pent-up demand to increase workforce, but firms continue to hold off due to a generally weak economic environment and an inability to find the skills they need,” said Kate O’Sullivan, deputy editor at CFO Magazine. “One encouraging sign is that the strong capital spending growth of recent quarters is expected to add to employment.”

Some good signs for people who are working include: CFOs say pay raises will be in the range of 3 percent this year; and some benefits that were cut or reduced in the recession will be restored.

More than 800 CFOs participated in the survey.

CFO optimism about the overall economy fell to 61 from 57 on the survey’s 100-point scale.

“The declining optimism may be due to concerns about the continued shaky economic outlook in the U.S., the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Europe, the disaster in Japan and high oil prices, among other factors,” Duke and CFO said.

Corporate earnings and capital spending are expected to increase 8 percent and 9 percent respectively. Capital spending forecast is down from 12 percent the previous quarter.

Among international firms, optimism fell in China and Asia while remained stable in Europe.

Read more details about the survey here.

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