More than half of chief financial officers in the United States don't believe the economy will improve during the next six months, but most are optimistic about maintaining or increasing their headcount over the same time period, according to a survey by Grant Thornton LLP.

The biggest barrier to employee and company financial growth is the cost of employee benefits, with 56 percent of CFOs surveyed identifying health care and pensions as the top expenses. As the cost of health care grows, 77 percent said they anticipate company and employee contributions to increase over the next year. Life insurance and disability benefits are expected to remain the same.

"With the economy in a fragile recovery, CFOs are most concerned about rising healthcare costs when it comes to compensation and benefits," said Stephen Chipman, chief executive officer of Grant Thornton LLP. "Most companies will continue to see a significant increase in healthcare costs unless they have taken proactive steps to promote wellness and better utilization of healthcare benefits, which can help ease the increase of these costs."

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