With all eyes focused on job creation, a new survey that tracks professional employment offers a bit of good news for the upcoming quarter.

Ten per cent of executives interviewed for The Robert Half Professional Employment Report said they plan to increase the number of full-time employees in professional occupations in the second quarter, and six per cent anticipate declines. Eighty-two per cent of executives interviewed expressed confidence in their companies’ prospects for growth in the next quarter.

Key Findings

• A net four per cent of executives plan to increase hiring in professional occupations, such as accounting, finance and information technology (IT), in the second quarter of 2010.

• Executives in the finance, insurance and real estate sector plan to do the most hiring of professional staff, with a net nine per cent projecting hiring increases.

• The legal field is expected to see the strongest hiring activity, with a net 26 per cent of respondents expecting to increase staff levels.

• Nearly four in 10 executives (37 per cent) said it is challenging to find skilled professionals today.

Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, noted that the second-quarter projections may indicate companies are cautiously rebuilding. “Many firms, especially those that found they cut staff too aggressively during the worst of the recession, may need to add personnel at the first sign of a pickup in business,” he said.

“Hiring in the legal profession is likely a result of unusually large-scale downsizings by many law firms in the early months of the recession,” said Brett Good, of Robert Half.

“Consequently, a number of firms are now in a position where they must hire to keep pace with client demands.”

A net 10 per cent of HR executives said their companies plan to hire sales and business development staff. In addition, a net five per cent of CIOs interviewed expect to increase their IT personnel.