Employers believe hiring for professional-level positions will grow in the first quarter; however, they are still concerned that finding qualified candidates could be difficult, according to a new survey by Robert Half, a specialized staffing firm.

The survey shows that a net 10 percent of executives expect to hire full-time staff during the first three months of the 2012, which is up three points from the fourth-quarter prediction. Still, the number of respondents reporting recruiting challenges is also growing, as 67 percent of respondents say it is at least somewhat challenging to find skilled employees today, a jump from 59 percent last quarter and 42 percent in the third quarter. Another 87 percent of respondents express at least somewhat confident in their employers' ability to grow in the first quarter.

According to the survey, the legal field is believed to experience the most hiring, with a net 27 percent of lawyers planning to increase staff levels. The information technology and finance fields have the largest net gains in estimated hiring activity from the previous quarter.

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