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Business Leader Confidence at a 2-year Low

September 1, 2011 (Chicago Tribune) The confidence of business leaders in the U.S. economy fell to its lowest level in more than two years, according to a quarterly survey from Grant Thornton LLP.

Only 18 percent of U.S. business leaders believe that the domestic economy will improve in the next six months, according to the Chicago-based accounting firm's business optimism index survey for August. At the start of the year, 64 percent of business leaders expected the economy to improve.

Nearly half of surveyed business leaders expect the economy to worsen in the months ahead.

"Economic uncertainty is bad for business," said Stephen Chipman, CEO of the Chicago-based accounting firm. "Confidence in the prospect of an economic recovery has nearly disappeared in the past quarter. Uncertainty about global economic policy and sovereign debt are weighing on the business decision-making across the country. Business leaders are waiting for a sign that there will be some stability out of Washington and the European Union."

High unemployment ranked as the business community's biggest worry, the survey found. When asked what public policy initiative would make business leaders most optimistic about the country's future, 57 percent of respondents chose a job creation program as the first priority, above deficit reduction and reducing the corporate tax rate.

The economic pessimism also spurred an increase in business leaders' plans to lay off employees. The survey found 25 percent of companies are considering handing out pink slips in the next six months up from 10 percent when the year began.

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(c)2011 the Chicago Tribune

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