Top business executives are more optimistic about the U.S. economy now than at any point since the recession ended more than five years ago, a new survey shows. Some 64% of CEOs, chief financial officers and other senior executives are gung-ho about the prospects for the economy over the next 12 months, according to a survey by the American Institute of CPAs. The index only crossed the 50% mark for the first time since the recession ended in the second quarter. It edged up to 52% in the third quarter before surging in the fourth quarter. Almost one-quarter of executives polled say they plan to hire immediately, up from 13% one year ago. The broad increase in hiring plans, however, has forced many companies to offer higher wages or other enhanced benefits. And others are repeatedly running into difficulty finding qualified workers. "As clouds lift on the economy, companies are shifting back into growth mode," said Arleen Thomas, a senior vice president at the AICPA.
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