Companies see slower growth ahead

@CNNMoney April 25, 2012: 10:23 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In what could be yet another sign that the recovery is losing momentum, a new survey shows medium-sized companies are still not confident enough to hire.

Mid-sized firms -- which have between $10 million and $1 billion in revenue -- expect their sales to grow 7% over the next 12 months, according to a new economic indicator released Wednesday by Ohio State University's National Center for the Middle Market.

That's a significant slowdown from 8.4% growth over the last year, and enough to keep hiring plans on ice for now.

About 41% of executives surveyed said that they would rather save extra cash or invest it in financial assets, than spend it on capital expenditures, technology or new employees. Only 11% said they would invest extra funds in creating jobs.

That's mainly because they're still jittery about what lies ahead. Only 15% said they are "confident" in the U.S. economy. A whopping 92% identified health care costs as one of their biggest challenges and 81% cited uncertainty over government action as a key concern.

"All of these things slow you down when you're growing," said Craig Bouchard, founder and chief executive of metal product company Shale-Inland. "The more tax and regulatory burden we get, the more we look to move to places where that doesn't exist."

Bouchard's business generated around $1 billion in revenue last year, and employs 1,400 workers. But he's hesitant to hire more because of regulatory uncertainty. Plus, his health care costs are set to rise substantially.

The new middle market indicator stems from a quarterly survey of about 1,000 executives in various sectors.

There are 195,000 mid-sized companies in the United States, according to the National Center. Despite accounting for only 3% of all American companies, these firms represent roughly a third of all jobs and a third of U.S. gross domestic product, he said. To top of page

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