This is not the news you hear when there is talk of "recovery."
Plus, it's bad news for President Obama. The morning after our leader joined the rest of Americans and finally acknowledged that jobs are the most important issue facing the country, chief financial officers signaled they don't expect the employment picture to improve anytime soon.
Sure, 62 percent of the 371 corporate CFOs who participated in the latest quarterly survey conducted by Financial Executives International (FEI) and Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business said they do not plan any layoffs for this year. Big deal. Most companies have already gotten around to this cost-cutting measure. In fact, 77 percent of those surveyed said they already cut rank and file during the economic downturn.
More significantly, nearly half of the CFOs that previously laid off people said they do not plan to replace those positions. Rather, they figure to deploy other strategies to increase production or output. For example, they plan to reinstate overtime for existing employees, turn to outside consultants, hire part-time employees, and/or make current part-time employees full time before rehiring new full-time employees.
Just 44 percent of the total surveyed said they anticipate an increase in hiring at their companies. On the other hand, about one-quarter of the finance execs expect to cut back on hiring. Not too encouraging, huh?
What's more, non-cash payments seem to be high on the list of anticipated cutbacks. For example, executive perks were cited more than any other area for potential cutbacks (37.2 percent). Benefits in general ranked third (31.5 percent).
"As far as the new normal is concerned, efficiency is the name of the game," Marie Hollein, CEO and President, Financial Executives International, said in a press release.
CFOs may become more confident later in the year, however. Virtually half of the respondents to the survey said they believe indicators such as bond yields, mortgage interest rates, U.S. unemployment rate and rising GDP will collectively improve and result in the start of a recovery in the U.S. economy in the second half of this year. Another 22 percent don't expect these conditions to materialize until the first half of 2011.
In general, however, CFOs indicated they were more optimistic about the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter survey than they were three months earlier.
They are also more optimistic about their own company's financial prospects than they were in the third-quarter survey.