(Reuters) – Few U.S. companies plan to step up hiring in the next six months although they do expect the economy to be a bit stronger this year, according to a poll released on Monday.

The National Association for Business Economics’ industry survey found that two-thirds of respondents expected no change in employment at their companies over the first half of the year. That was the highest share in recent quarters.

Although the U.S. jobless rate fell to a near three-year low of 8.5 percent in December, fewer businesses said they would hire more workers, compared with the previous industry poll.

Read More: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/23/us-usa-economy-poll-idUSTRE80M09I20120123