Wisconsin business leaders say the state is headed in the right direction, yet one in five plans to cut staff in the next six months, the largest percentage in more than three years, according to a semi-annual survey conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
Twenty percent said they plan layoffs in the first half of 2013, the highest since June 2009, when 41 percent expected job cuts.
One in four chief executives, or 24 percent, said they will add employees, down from 44 percent a year ago and 62 percent last June.
The state business organization sent online surveys to more than 1,100 of its members in mid-November, and 121 replied.
Only 4 percent of CEOs said they expect "good growth" in their company in the next six months, down from 9 percent a year ago, and 16 percent anticipate a decline compared with 5 percent last year.
Health care is the No. 2 business concern, after the economic slowdown, the poll showed.
With 13 percent saying their health insurance costs have increased more than 20 percent in the past year, up from 8 percent a year ago, more employers say they are dropping health coverage for their workers. Five percent say they do not offer health insurance now, and 9 percent say they will end health benefits, up from 2 percent a year ago.
CEOs were gung-ho on the state, though, with 93 percent saying "things in Wisconsin are going in the right direction" and 40 percent describing state government as "very pro-business."
WMC spokesman Jim Pugh said he thinks the concerns business leaders expressed in the survey were about "policies coming out of Washington, D.C.," specifically involving health care, environmental protection and labor union organization.
Pugh said the survey's margin of error is 8.9 percent.