The leaders of the state's largest businesses had a slightly improved economic outlook this month, according to an index from the Iowa Business Council. Most of that optimism was regarding hiring, which they expect to remain steady or grow. 

The council's fourth quarter Overall Economic Outlook Survey Index was 62, one point higher than last quarter and the same reading as this time last year. Index readings fall on a 100-point scale; a reading above 50 indicates positive business sentiment. (See the full survey results)

The survey's employment index read 61, nine points higher than three months ago and four points ahead of this time last year. A total of 85 percent of council members surveyed expect hiring levels for the next six months to remain steady or grow.

The sales outlook index was 63, four points lower than last quarter and five points lower than a year ago. Still, 90 percent of CEOs expect steady or increased sales over the next six months.

The capital spending index was 61, four points lower than last quarter and the same as a year ago. But again, 90 percent of IBC corporate members surveyed expect steady or increased capital spending levels through May 2014.

"Iowa Business Council members are optimistic regarding positive economic growth in 2014," said Stan Askren, chairman, president and CEO of HNI Corp. in Muscatine and 2013 chair of the Iowa Business Council.