Iowa employers are optimistic about hiring, according to the Iowa Business Council's second-quarter Overall Economic Outlook Survey Index released today.


The Overall Survey Index (OSI) had a reading of 64, two points higher than last quarter and the same reading as a year ago. The survey is made up of indexes on sales, capital spending and employment.


The increase from last quarter was led by a reading of 63 in the Employment OSI, which tied for a historical high. That was six points higher than last quarter and five points higher than a year ago.


"There's hope in the air for business activity here in the state," said Elliott Smith, executive director of the Iowa Business Council.


The Sales OSI was 68, unchanged from last quarter and two points behind the reading of a year ago. The Capital Spending OSI was 60, a point lower than last quarter and four points lower than a year ago.


Smith said that the improved employment outlook is a good sign going into the second half of the year. Typically, the employment index is a lagging indicator of the sales and capital spending indexes, and in this case, "it's having its moment."


"Hopefully that means in the next survey or two that we see a bump in sales and capital spending too," Smith said. "I would hope this doesn't portend the end of a trend or cycle. It means maybe we've just finished one and are getting ready to launch a new one."


Even though the sales and capital spending numbers leveled off, Smith doesn't think that's cause for concern since they didn't take a big step down. Usually if there's a negative trend coming, you can see it by now, he said.


The second-quarter Economic Outlook Survey was completed by corporate members of the Iowa Business Council during the second half of May. Results are weighted on a 100 point scale; readings above 50 indicate positive sentiment among businesses.


The Iowa Business Council is made up of top executives in the largest businesses in the state, as well as the three state university presidents and a representative of the Iowa Banking Association.