BAY AREA -- Small- and mid-size businesses throughout the Bay Area are more confident about the economic outlook, with a majority of executives expecting conditions to improve in the next six months, according to survey results released today by the Bay Area Council.

Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties trailed San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties in optimism and projected growth, according to the survey (view in PDF). Solano County was grouped with Contra Costa County, which also trailed San Francisco, the Peninsula and Silicon Valley.

Forty-seven percent of North Bay executives thought the economic landscape would get moderately better, 34 percent thought it would stay the same and 14 percent thought it would get moderately worse, according to the survey. And 26 percent said they planned to increase staffing levels, 58 percent said staffing levels would stay the same and 14 percent said they would decrease their workforce.

"We're seeing optimism and confidence in all private industries," said Jim Wunderman, council president and CEO.

In its quarterly Business Confidence Survey, the council asked chief executives and other top officers in nine counties a series of questions regarding the national and local economic landscapes. Overall, 58 percent of 485 surveyed think Bay Area economic conditions are better than they were six months ago, up 11 points from the last quarter, the survey said. Additionally, 61 percent said they expected the next six months to show improvement, the survey said.

The survey said 42 percent Bay Area companies with between 50 and 99 employees expect to increase staffing levels, while 41 percent of those with 500 to 999 employees expect to add more positions -- an increase of 19 points over the last quarter.

Specific industries fared better. Information technology, financial services and leisure and hospitality posted gains. Construction, health services and education, meanwhile, remained flat, and 65 percent of government leaders expected things to get worse.

The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored, public-private advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area region.