The outlook for the U.S. economy is somber at best, and we may be headed for the second part of a double-dip recession, according to a survey of top financial jobs, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants said Wednesday.

In its quarterly survey of chief financial officers and other high-ranking financial decision-makers, AICPA found that 61 percent of the respondents think it’s “somewhat” or “very” likely that the U.S. heading into the second trough of a double-dip recession.

The pessimism resembles what the survey found in 2007 before the recession hit, said Carol Scott, AICPA’s vice president for business, industry and government.

“This is pretty scary. Their insights are very predictive,” she said.

The sour taste of the economy pulled the CPAs’ overall outlook down to 58 on a 100-point scale from 66 in the first quarter of the year, AICPA said.

The comments about the U.S. economy continued a slide found in previous surveys, Scott said.

“Executives have control over the decisions they make” and do what’s best for their companies, said Jim Morrison, chief financial officer at Teknor Apex Co., a materials science company based in Pawtucket, R.I., who presented the results with Scott. They do not see the same kind of decision-making in Washington, he added.

“It would go a long way if we could just get rid of the rhetoric in government,” he said. “We’re treading water, and our arms are getting tired.”

The results came out shortly after a global report saying the U.S. has slipped to fifth place in a global ranking of the world’s most competitive economies, with its massive deficits and declining public faith in government to blame there, too, the World Economic Forum said.

“For the second consecutive quarter, the CPA Outlook Index declined as turbulence in the political and economic environment eroded the sense earlier this year that a recovery was taking hold,” Scott said. “A majority of our CPA members in executive financial roles now fear a second recession may be likely.”

The executives are more confident about their own companies’ health, partly because many are sitting on cash and have little debt right now, Morrison said. 

Fifty-three percent of companies still expect their businesses to expand over the next year but the outlook for revenues, profits and spending plans all edged lower, AICPA reported.

The outlook for respondents’ companies was down 8 points in the three months since the last survey, but the economic outlook component of the survey fell much more sharply. This time around, AICPA said, 9 percent of the executives had a positive outlook for the U.S. economy.

Hiring prospects are dim in light of the uncertainty, Scott and Morrison said.

““You hire people with you see growth, and that’s certainly not the case now,” Scott said.

AICPA surveyed the executives between Aug. 11 and 29. The results are based on 1,305 responses and have a margin of error of less than 3 percentage points, the organization said.

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