A survey by the Iowa Business Council suggests the economic recovery may be in “pause” mode. 

The Iowa Business Council surveyed executives at the 20 businesses in the state which are members of the group. The survey found employment, sales and capital investment among the state’s 20 largest corporations did not vary significantly from the previous quarter.

Ninety percent of the C.E.O.s surveyed expect “steady or increased sales” over the next six months.  When it comes to jobs, 45 percent expect to hire new workers in the coming months. But — in the words of the survey — 20 percent “expect employment needs to decrease.” That likely means either reduced hours for employees or layoffs. 

Iowa Business Council executive director Elliott Smith says the survey shows companies are “ultra-cautious” right now. “There’s apparently a pause here, businesses taking stock, maybe, in how solid and sustainable this recovery is,” Smith says. 

In the third quarter of 2008 the Iowa Business Council found similar results overall.  That was at the beginning of the economic slide.

“This may be a moment when we’re testing the ability of the economy both nationally and on state level to sustain its recent growth,” Smith says. “Hopefully we’re not poised to take another dip here.” 

The economic realities of the last couple of years have forced businesses of all sizes to be “a lot more efficient” according to Smith, and while business activity has picked up in the past year, businesses appear to be exercising caution in rehiring and investing in new equipment.

(This post was updated at 12:35 p.m.)