It is all about growth.
Finance execs are more upbeat about their hiring plans. And this is happening at the same time they are concerned about issues like health care reform, the budget deficit and housing.
Rather, CFOs made it clear job growth at their companies is heavily related to their particular company's prospects.
According to a new survey from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 47 percent of 801 executives surveyed said they expect their companies to hire additional employees next year. This is up from just 28 percent who forecast hiring last year.
Only 6 percent said they expect layoffs, compared with 9 percent last year.
It looks like this surge in hiring optimism is tied to growth at their companies. The survey found that 64 percent of CFOs expect revenue growth in 2011, up from just 61 percent last year.
"Despite the challenging economic climate, many CFOs have growing confidence that their companies have weathered the worst of the storm and are poised for expansion," said Laura Whitley, Global Commercial Products executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "Although concerns about the economy remain, the increase in CFOs who expect to hire employees could be crucial to improving the nation's unemployment rate."
This apparent direct tie between hiring and internal growth makes sense and counters pundits who have blamed the stubbornly high unemployment rate on uncertainty over tax policy-which now looks like it could be resolved for a couple of years-uncertainty over regulation and the Obama health care plan.
In fact, the CFOs who participated in the survey said their top financial concern by far is health care costs. Yet, they are planning a hiring surge.
This was followed by revenue growth and cash flow. The top concern last year was revenue growth.
When asked what will have the biggest impact on the economy in 2011, CFOs ranked healthcare first at 54 percent, followed by the budget deficit at 52 percent and the housing market at 43 percent.
Interestingly, executives at manufacturing companies generally were less positive about their sector than CFOs at services and commodities companies, which include construction, retail, transportation, finance, education, health care and food service businesses, according to the survey. Just 47 percent of manufacturing CFOs predicted expansion in their sector versus 58 percent of CFOs in other sectors.
The survey was conducted from mid-September to late October from phone interviews of 801 CFOs, finance directors and other executives from US companies with annual revenues between $25 million and $2 billion.