However, corporate PR professionals note that this slight dip in confidence isn't a major issue, and simply indicates a slow recovery.
"It does indicate that CEOs really need a lot more proof that the recovery is sustainable," said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist for Weber Shandwick. "I find a slight hesitancy to be a good sign that there is a tempered response to the recovery and [CEOs] are less apt to take risks as they are looking at the recovery ahead of us."
"There was nothing huge that sparked a big increase in confidence, and there was nothing terrible that sparked a macro decrease in confidence," added Beth Haiken, SVP in Ogilvy PR's corporate practice. "To me, that just suggests that the recovery seems to be happening, but it's not happening dramatically."
On the more positive side, more than 30% of CEOs expect an increase in employment levels in their industry, and only 22% expect a decrease, compared to 86% that expected a decrease in hiring at the same time last year.
"CEOs recognize that employment is going to start turning up again, the question is how long will it take before we get to a situation where we have employment levels that are more acceptable?" asked John Weckenmann, partner and international client development for the global corporate practice for Ketchum. He noted that the changing dynamic in Washington and concerns with regulation, inflation, and interest rates are "broader macro concerns that weigh on CEOs' minds now, particularly."
But Haiken suggested that these more cautious times also affect the way companies and CEOs communicate.
"In a way, communicating dramatic news is easier," she said. "If you are going to have a big acquisition or a big turnaround or even major layoffs, that's a big thing to communicate and it drives your communications strategy. But this… becomes a real challenge in terms of motivating your employees, keeping your shareholders interested, really in every facet of your communications."