The hiring outlook for the next six months looks good, according to the most recent survey from the National Association for Business Economics.

Forty-two percent of business leaders surveyed said their firms plan to hire in the next six months, up from 39% last quarter and 29% from a year earlier.  

Layoffs are also receding. Only 1% of firms are anticipating a big cut in headcount, down from 6% at the beginning of the year.

The National Association for Business Economics surveyed 84 association members between Dec. 17 and Jan. 5, asking about business conditions in their firm or industry.  

"The number of firms expressing positive hiring plans is at a level not seen in over a decade," said Shawn DuBravac of the Consumer Electronics Association.

The finance and insurance industries reported the strongest plans to hire, followed by industries producing goods.  The news in services remained positive though hiring may slow. Some industries didn’t fit the rosier outlook: in publishing, software, broadcasting, Internet publishing and providers, and telecommunications, 14% expect jobs to decrease through attrition and 7% expect layoffs, although 14% expected to hire.

Overall, the group is optimistic, with one in five panelists building business plans assuming 3% or 4% growth after inflation for the economy as a whole, and 62% expecting 2% or 3% growth.  More than a third, 38%, reported rising profit margins at their firm, while the same portion had increased their capital spending. And plans for future investment improved significantly: 62% of respondents reported that their companies planned to spend more, up from 48% last quarter.

Although costs for materials continued to rise, the pace had slowed from 2008. Most said that the new tax policies would not affect their spending or employment plans.

The results from the NABE contradict the opinion of respondents to a recent survey by the Turnaround Management Association, among whom only 2% thought companies would increase their workforce, and only 7% thought firms would commit to capital spending.