RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Executives’ optimism about the economy are at their highlest level since 2018 with expectations that business will “roar back” this year as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic fades, according to a new survey.

And that means a collective boost in plans to hire.

One third of executives polled in the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants’ quarterly survey say then plan to hire more workers. Only 4% expect to cut workers. But demand for talent is really higher.

“On the other side of the equation, 47% of our respondents indicated they had too few employees,” the AICPA which has a major presence in the Triangle, reported early Thursday. “Only 14% are hesitating because of current conditions, 33% are planning to hire in the near future, continuing to tick up from recent quarters.”

AICPA graphic

In fact, executives are more optimistic across all components in the index, from expansion plans to growth, lifting the overall economy score to 78 – up 10 points from earlier this year and more than double over early 2020. The score is highest since the third quarter of 2018.

“Business executives are predicting the economy will roar back in the coming year, with revenue and profit growth expectations not seen since 2018,” AICPA reports.

The survey includes CEOs and other financial executives.

“What we’re seeing is a broad expectation that things will really open up in the second half of the year,” says Ash Noah on the AICPA. “Many issues remain, of course. Supply chains are still straining to meet demand in a number of sectors. The global response to the pandemic still contains many uncertainties, which impacts the United States. But we are clearly seeing growing confidence on the part of business executives that the worst is behind us.”

Return to classrooms seen as key to bringing more people – epsecially women – back to workforce

Overall enthusiasm soared to 70% from 47% just three months ago.

However, there are concerns, especially about available talent and inflation.

“Availability of skilled personnel reemerged as the top-cited challenge for businesses as job recruitment turns up,” AICPA says. “And two-thirds of business executives now express concern about inflation, up from 44 percent last quarter.”

Other survey highlights:

  • Business executives’ optimism about their own organization’s prospects over the next 12 months rose to 76 percent from 58 percent last quarter
  • Some 69 percent of executives say their companies plan to expand in the next 12 months, up from 58 percent last quarter
  • Profits are expected to grow by four percent in the next 12 months, more than doubling last quarter’s 1.9 percent forecast. And revenues are expected to climb five percent, up from three percent. Both projections are at their highest level since 2018.
  • The hiring picture is also significantly improved, with 33 percent of executives saying their companies planned to fill positions immediately, up from 19 percent last quarter. Another 14 percent said they have too few employees but are hesitant to hire. The percentage of executives who said their companies had too many employees declined from seven to four percent, quarter over quarter.

For more details, a copy of the report can be found on