Chief executives of American firms are more confident in the nation's economic prospects than at any time in the last twenty years, according to a new survey.

The Conference Board's quarterly index of business sentiment jumped from 66 in Q4 last year to 73 in the first quarter of 2004 -- its highest since the final three months of 1983. The barometer is based on interviews with over 100 chief executives, and any reading above 50 indicates more positive responses than negative.

"Half of all ceos surveyed anticipate an increase in hiring plans over the course of the year, suggesting labor-market growth should gain momentum in the months ahead," commented Lynn Franco, director of the Board's Consumer Research Center.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff