By Dan Primack
April 22, 2011

Startup hiring is on the rise, according to a report released this morning by Silicon Valley Bank. It finds that 83% of surveyed companies plan to add new employees this year, compared by 73% in 2010.

To a certain extent, this shouldn’t be terribly surprising. SVB surveyed 375 executives of early-stage companies in the software, hardware, life sciences and cleantech sector. In other words, companies that, almost by definition, should be in expansion mode.

What’s moving the needle higher, however, is increasing optimism. Two-thirds of respondents said that overall business conditions have improved over the past year, and three-quarters expect things to get even better in the next 12 months.

Of course, there are some concerns. Everyone seems worried about equity availability, particularly a life sciences industry that believes the FDA is scaring off new investors. Perhaps that’s why life sciences ranks last in the survey in terms of new hiring expectations, at just 69%. Both life sciences and cleantech expect business conditions to improve going forward, but they also reported the most negative sentiments about the prior year. No specific explanation given on cleantech, but maybe it’s just a realization that the DoE gravy train is slowing down (coupled with the maintenance of anti-competitive oil company subsidies).

Most of the new hiring is expected to occur where companies are currently headquartered, although there was a slight year-over-year uptick in alternate state (29% to 31%) and overseas plans (20 to 22%). One quarter of respondents say that recruitment remains on of their top business challenges, due in part to the high costs of living in startup hotbeds like Silicon Valley.

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