WASHINGTON -- After a difficult winter in which extreme weather hurt sales, business economists expect growth to improve in the coming months, according to poll results released Monday.
The quarterly survey by the National Assn. for Business Economics found a brighter outlook for hiring and capital spending, and predicted that the economy will grow at greater than a 2% pace over the next year.
“Buffeted by a very rough winter, sales grew at fewer firms during the first quarter, said the group's president, Jack Kleinhenz, who also is the chief economist at the National Retail Federation.
However, he noted, the 72 respondents in the survey "continue to report strong expectations for increased growth over the course of 2014."
The survey showed sales growth slowed in the first quarter of the year.
Just 53% of respondents reported rising sales at their companies, compared with 63% in the last quarter of 2013.
Profits also took a slight hit, with 32% of respondents saying they rose in the first quarter, compared with 34% in the fourth quarter of last year.
Hiring remained fairly constant as 28% of respondents said employment at their companies increased in the first quarter, compared with 27% in the fourth quarter. That figure has been consistent for the last year.
The respondents were more optimistic about job growth in the next six months. About 43% said they expected employment to increase, up from 37% in the fourth quarter.
Capital spending continued to rise in the first three months of the year -- 38% said their companies spent more, compared with 28% in the previous survey. About 61% of the respondents said they expected such spending to increase during the next year.