CFOs Expect Hiring Surge

CFOs Expect Hiring Surge

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All eyes will be on Friday’s jobs report for signs that the economic recovery is gathering steam, which would be good news for the Obama campaign. There was positive foreshadowing this morning from the nation’s chief financial officers.

The latest quarterly survey by Duke University for CFO Magazine showed top finance officers at the nation’s leading corporations expect to expand their total employment by 2.1 percent this year. That should pull the unemployment rate below 8 percent by yearend, the survey authors said.

In the last quarterly survey, top CFOs expected to expand hiring by only 1.5 percent in 2012. “This rebound is encouraging because increases in CFO optimism have historically preceded improvements in the overall economy,” said John Graham, a professor of finance at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

The uptick in hiring is bringing the issue of lagging skills in the U.S. workforce to the fore for many firms. About half of firms actively looking to fill slots report trouble filling vacancies. Fully one-third of all firms say they plan to hire “junior” workers and train them for the new jobs. A similar number said they plan to increase wages to attract better candidates.

Alas, it seems every prospect for sunnier days ahead has a cloud on the horizon. Less than one in 25 firms plan to offer better benefits to entice workers to apply for their open slots, according to the survey.

spent 25 years as a foreign correspondent, economics writer and investigative business reporter for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. He is the author of the 2004 book, The $800 Million Pill: The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs.