IRISH chief executives are significantly more confident about the economy and their own businesses compared to last year, a survey suggests.
The vast majority of company bosses are positive about the outlook - a three fold increase on 2013, according to PwC's 2014 CEO Pulse Survey.
The study found that more chief executives are upbeat compared with 2007, but almost a quarter feel that their position has deteriorated.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said recent years have been painful for many workers but an improvement is starting to become evident.
"The survey is a very welcome addition to our understanding of what is happening in the economy, and is the latest in a growing number of signs that the jobs recovery which has started over the last two years is set to broaden and deepen," Mr Bruton said.
Key findings of the survey include:
*A majority of Irish CEOs are positive about the outlook for the economy at 86pc.
This is up from 31pc a year ago.
* More than three-quarters (77pc) are favourable about the future prospects for their own businesses, up from 44pc last year.
* Almost nine out of 10 CEOs of multi-nationals plan to increase or maintain their investment here. They claim access to highly-skilled employees is the most critical factor.
* More than half (58pc) plan to increase their workforce, up from 34pc last year and 36pc in 2008. But just over one in ten are still looking at cutbacks.
* About 58pc report their businesses to be in better financial health now compared to before the financial crisis. But almost a quarter say they are in a worse position.
* Two-thirds (66pc) expect their export volumes to grow in the next three to five years. However, this represents a drop from 73pc last year.
* Rising labour costs is the top threat to businesses.
Ronan Murphy, PwC senior partner, said levels of confidence across many areas are now higher than in 2007.
But he added: "The survey also highlights that the skills challenge persists and competitive wage rates is a key concern for both indigenous and multinational CEOs."
The survey was carried out in May involving 256 CEOs covering a range of sectors.