Chief financial officers don’t expect a double-dip recession, but they also aren’t expect much in the way of growth or hiring.

So say nearly 1,000 CFOS who participated in the latest “Global Business Outlook Survey” from Duke University and CFO Magazine.

A survey from UNC-Chapel Hill and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants reported similar results last week. (Read details here.)  On Monday, the National Association for Business Economics predict that the economy will grow 1.7 percent this year, down from a 2.8 percent prediction in May.

Hiring is expected to be sluggish but business spending will increase, the CFOs said.

The news is grim for job seekers with US firms expected to increase employment by 0.9 percent.

“The U.S. economy needs to create 100,000 jobs per month just to keep up with labor force growth, meaning we are stuck at 9 percent unemployment for the next year,” said John Graham, a professor at Duke’s Fuqua business school and director of the survey. “While the employment situation is stagnant, I expected the jobs outlook to be worse, given the extreme drop in optimism and reduced spending plans.”

Overall optimism of CFOs did dive in the third quarter with 65 percent of them saying they were more pessimistic about the economy than in the previous quarter. Only 12 percent were more optimistic.

“This significant drop in optimism is being driven by a number of deep concerns: continued weak consumer demand, intense price pressure, and uncertainty about government policies and global financial instability,” said Kate O’Sullivan, deputy editor at CFO Magazine.

Optimists and pessimists were roughly equal last quarter.

But it’s not just the US economy that’s troubling CFOs. Optimism is also down in China, Europe and the rest of Asia.

Capital spending is a bright spot with growth of 4.5 percent forecast. Yet that percentage is down by nearly half from the previous survey.

“Capital spending had been a primary driver of growth in this tepid economic recovery,” said Campbell Harvey, a professor of finance at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and founding director of the survey. “Looking forward, 4.5 percent growth in capital spending is not bad, and certainly does not indicate an imminent recession.”

Hiring is expected to increase at a mere 1 percent.

And most companies “plan to hold onto cash due to great economic uncertainty,” the survey says.

Key concerns for CFOs include:

• Weak consumer demand
• Intense price pressure
• Uncertainty about government policies
• Global financial instability

Specific company concerns include:

• Health care costs
• Maintaining employee morale
• Hiring and retaining highly skilled employees

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