Regional survey shows drop in confidence among local business leaders

Only 41% think economy is better now than it was 6 months ago

The number of Bay Area executives who think the economy is better now than it was six months ago has decreased by 17% since May, according to a quarterly survey by the Bay Area Council.

Of the 500 CEOs and top executives surveyed between Aug. 9 and Aug. 23, 41% said Bay Area economic conditions are better now than six months ago, according to the Business Confidence Survey. In May, 58% of executives said the local economy was in better shape than six months before that.

The survey was developed to measure employer expectations in the nine Bay Area counties, according to the Bay Area Council. Executives participate confidentially through e-mail and the Internet.

"Even though we're seeing a downward trend in business confidence in this survey, the strength of the Bay Area economy continues to provide optimism to CEOs and executives," Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman said in a news release.

Forty-four percent of executives said they expect a better local economy six months from now, a decrease of 19% from last quarter, according to the survey.

However, more than 30% of Bay Area companies with 500 to 999 employees predict they will increase their workforce during the next six months, an increase of 8%from last quarter's survey.

Sixty percent of executives expect their number of employees to remain the same for the next six months, according to the survey. Less than 15% of CEOs plan to decrease their workforce during the same period.

The number of executives in Contra Costa and Solano counties expected to add employees increased four points, from 17% to 21%, since the last survey.

More than 75 percent of executives said their company had not seriously considered moving significant business functions outside the Bay Area, according to the survey.

When asked about the difficulty of hiring and retaining quality employees because of the availability of housing the Bay Area, 54% of executives said it was "very difficult" or "somewhat difficult."

Eighty percent of retail executives predicted industry conditions would improve but none of those surveyed reported improvement during the last six months. Executives in the leisure, hospitality, education and health care industries reported better conditions than six months ago, according to the survey.

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