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Survey: Businesses more optimistic, but not hiring

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Businesses expect their companies to perform better this year but that optimism still isn’t translating into a push to hire more workers, according to a new survey from the National Association for Business Economics.

Of the 64 members who responded to NABE’s January survey, most said they saw stronger sales in the final months of 2013, and 43 percent expect their companies to modestly hike selling prices this year. That’s the highest percentage in more than 12 months. Most respondents don’t expect the new health care law or the Federal Reserve’s easing of its stimulus policies to have a major impact on business, either. However only 37 percent expect to create jobs in the next six months, the same as in NABE’s October survey.

For the fourth quarter, only about a quarter of respondents said their companies expanded payrolls. Those most likely to report increased hiring were from the manufacturing, finance, insurance and real estate sectors.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent in December, its lowest point in more than five years. But that wasn’t because people found jobs. Rather, they stopped looking for work altogether, making them no longer counted as unemployed.

About 70 percent of those who responded to NABE’s survey predict that the economy will grow between 2.1 and 3 percent this year. That too is little changed from October, but it is more optimistic than the 2.3 percent growth forecast by the Fed. On Thursday, the Conference Board reported that its index of leading indicators rose modestly in December, suggesting that growth will remain steady early this year.

The survey results “suggest that economic growth accelerated to a moderate pace during the fourth quarter of 2013 from its modest pace the previous quarter,” said NABE President Jack Kleinhenz, principal and chief economist at Kleinhenz and Associates in Cleveland, in a statement.

The survey, released Monday, analyzed responses given between Dec. 19 and Jan. 6 from members with companies employing anywhere from 1 to more than 1,000 workers.

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