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Companies grow pessimistic about economy, survey shows

WASHINGTON — Companies are growing more pessimistic about the U.S. economy this year and plan to limit hiring as the European debt crisis hurts sales and concern rises over the looming so-called fiscal cliff, a survey showed.

About 62 percent of businesses project no change in employment over the next six months, according to results of a National Association for Business Economics' survey released Monday in Washington. The share is up from 48 percent in the group's April report.

The lack of confidence signals the job market will show little progress after company payrolls rose last quarter at the slowest pace in more than two years. The data also indicated inflation will ebb as more businesses said the lack of demand will prevent them from raising prices.

"The survey results suggest worsening economic conditions," said Nayantara Hensel, chairwoman of the NABE outlook survey committee and professor of Industry and Business at the National Defense University in Washington. "The rising sales and profit margins experienced earlier in the year may have been short-lived."

Forty percent of the 67 NABE members responding to the survey taken from June 14 to June 26 forecast gross domestic product will grow 2 percent or less over the next 12 months, up from 23 percent in the previous poll. The share projecting growth will exceed 3 percent dropped to 5 percent from 15 percent in the April report.

Companies hired 84,000 workers last month, fewer than forecast and not enough to reduce a jobless rate that's exceeded 8 percent for more than three years, Labor Department figures showed earlier this month. The gain capped the weakest quarter for payrolls since the first three months of 2010.

Companies indicated concern should Congress not act to extend Bush-era tax cuts into next year and should the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts known as sequestration take place. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed predicted sales will drop if this fiscal cliff can't be avoided.

More respondents said the European crisis has already hurt demand as well. Some 47 percent of businesses said sales have fallen due to the turmoil overseas, up from 24 percent in the prior survey.

Companies grow pessimistic about economy, survey shows 07/16/12 [Last modified: Monday, July 16, 2012 8:19pm]

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