A new report by Robert Half International found that a net 27 percent of executives surveyed in New York plan to hire employees in the fourth quarter and a whopping 97 percent are confident in their companies' prospects for growth.

The optimistic report by the national professional recruiting firm indicates a more positive outlook in New York than in the country as a whole, which is picking up as well. However, 55 percent of New York executives still cite challenges in locating skilled professionals, though that's better than the national figure of 57 percent.

"Executives in the United States appear to be increasingly optimistic about the growth prospects of their companies," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half, in a news release. "Businesses may be gearing up to support growth plans for the coming quarter and year."

Nationwide, 17 percent of U.S. executives surveyed for the firm's quarterly study said they would hire full-time, professional staff in the fourth quarter, while 5 percent plan to cut staff. Seventy-seven percent expect no change in the next three months.

Executives in the Mid-Atlantic expect the most active hiring, with 23 percent of respondents planning to hire, led by health care, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, nonprofits and retailers, according to Robert Half. By industry, transportation led, with 24 percent expecting more staff, while sales and business development led the way by field, with 33 percent of executives expecting to hire.

Also, 37 percent of respondents are "very confident" in their companies' growth prospects in the fourth quarter, up from 21 percent in the prior quarter's survey, and 56 percent are "somewhat confident." That's a total of 93 percent that are confident.

Robert Half's Professional Employment Report is based on phone interviews with more than 4,000 executives and other senior managers, including chief financial officers, chief information officers, human resource managers, lawyers, advertising executives and marketing executives.