CPAs bearish on the economy, poll finds

"Our survey signals the nascent economic recovery that buoyed expectations last quarter is stalling," said AICPA Vice President of Business, Industry and Government Carol Scott in prepared remarks.

Measure of optimism versus pessimism registered a combined 34 percent swing toward a negative outlook, reversing the 28 percent shift toward optimism from the previous survey, conducted in the last quarter. 

An overwhelming majority of respondents (78 percent) believe U.S. business conditions will not return to pre-recession levels until 2012 or later. Seventeen percent said conditions would return to pre-recession levels in 2011, and less than 1 percent said activity would rebound this year. 

"The overall results confirm that the recovery has slowed," said UNC accounting professor Mark Lang in prepared remarks. "Uncertainty about the sustainability of the recovery continues to limit planned investment and hiring. The next few months will be crucial in determining whether uncertainty resolves to the point where firms are willing to significantly increase spending and hiring."

As U.S. unemployment holds steady at 9.5 percent, more than half of the CPAs surveyed (55 percent) do not anticipate their organizations' employment levels returning to pre-recession levels in the next year.