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CEOs see some light at the end of the hiring tunnel, though they remain nervous about the economy over all.

Three in eight top managers expect to hire more workers by year-end, McKinsey said Friday in its latest quarterly survey of global executives. That’s the highest level since the end of 2007, the consulting firm said.

More workers, please

The improved hiring outlook comes even as the 2,056 respondents show increasing ambivalence about the strength of the global economic recovery. Half of executives surveyed said economic conditions in their country have improved in the past six months.

That’s a steep decline from this past spring: in April, two-thirds of execs said conditions had brightened.

The downshift in confidence was especially notable in North America, McKinsey said.

 Optimism on the current state of the economy compared with six months earlier started to fall in June and has taken a sharp dive in the past month. Compared with August, 10 percentage points fewer say the economy is better now. The slide is particularly notable in North America, where the share of respondents who say conditions are better has fallen 16 percentage points.

But few executives expect their companies to resort to layoffs and other downsizing schemes in coming months. Just 18% of those surveyed expect to see the size of their workforce decline in the next six months.

If that news doesn’t exactly have you turning cartwheels, consider this: More than half of execs surveyed at the depth of the economic crisis in April 2009 predicted workforce shrinkage.

That bout of pessimism, as we are all too well aware, has been largely borne out by the high unemployment rates across the developed world since then.