CEOs Cite Health Care As Hiring Obstacle

April 6, 2004 ( - Half of all Chief Executive Officers (CEO) anticipate an increase in employment levels in their industry, but many cite health care concerns as a major obstacle to those plans.

Compared to last year’s figures, where only 16% of CEOs forecast increases in hiring in their industry, hiring plans expressed in the first quarter of 2004 are robust. Likewise, t he proportion of CEOs anticipating a decrease fell dramatically to less than 12 % from about 47% in the first quarter of 2003, according to data released by The Conference Board.

Health care costs remain the major obstacle to hiring new workers. Regulation and litigation costs were of less concern, while fringe benefits and wage and salary costs remain of minimal concern to CEOs when hiring new workers .

Overall, hiring plans were directly related to CEOs’ perception of the nation’s economy. Chief executives’ confidence in the nation’s economy, which had slipped to 66 in the final quarter of 2003, surged to 73 in the first quarter of 2004.

“CEO confidence has surged to its highest level in 20 years,” Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center said in a news release. “Half of all CEOs surveyed anticipate an increase in hiring plans over the course of the year, suggesting labor market growth should gain momentum in the months ahead .”

The Conference Board’s quarterly measure of CEO Confidence covers morethan100 CEOs in a wide variety of industries.