Overall expectations for company growth in the second half of 2012 remain positive are lower than for the beginning of the year, according to statistics available for the San Francisco Bay Area and Sonoma County.[poll id="31"]

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Sonoma County employers expect to hire at a moderate pace in the third quarter, with 13 percent of companies saying they expected to boost staffing levels between July and September, according to a survey by international staffing firm Manpower Group. 

The outlook for the Santa Rosa and Petaluma metropolitan region is one of the weakest in the country, with 7 percent more local employers planning to hire in the third quarter than cut back or maintain staffing levels, according to Manpower, which has a Santa Rosa branch.

Bay Area Council's spring 2012 business confidence index slipped to 61 out of 100 from 66 in winter, based on responses from 426 top executives and economic development officials in the nine Bay Area counties surveyed between May 11 and June 5. Anything above 50 indicates expectations of growth.

The proportion of Bay Area executives expecting to hire in the second half -- 31 percent -- is more than double that of those planning to shrink their workforces -- 13 percent. That's the third-highest level since the Great Recession took hold in 2008, according to the council.

Thirty-six percent of North Bay respondents said they expected to increase their workforces in the next 6 months, 50 percent don't plan to and 10 percent anticipate reductions.