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From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.
American companies are feeling hopeful about 2014. A new report says most companies that took part in a recent survey expect stronger sales and profits this year. The National Association for Business Economics asked its 64 members about the US economy. About 70 percent of those questioned expected the economy to grow between 2.5 and 3 percent this year. Ken Simonson works for the group. He says the low point for the economy came last October during the partial closure of the federal government. He says many companies seem prepared to plan to invest more in equipment in 2014. More than one-third of the businesses reported higher profit margins — a measurement of financial gain. Nearly half the companies expect to raise prices. However, only 37 percent say they plan to add more workers in the next six months. Businesses that plan to expand say a lack of skilled workers is a central problem. Mr. Simonson says about 25 percent of the businesses surveyed have a difficult time finding skilled labor. This is a problem for petrochemical companies that create chemical products made from petroleum. These companies recently announced projects valued at nearly $100 billion. Mr. Simonson says more workers are needed for these projects. He warns that without more workers, there will be delays and costs will increase. Some projects could be delayed or canceled. Most of the businesses questioned say they expect no effect from new central bank policies. Only 20 percent expect any harmful effects from the country’s new health care program.