Chief executives’ outlooks haven’t changed much from the third quarter, with expectations for sales a little higher, employment down a bit, and spending flat, according to Business Roundtable’s fourth-quarter CEO Economic Outlook Survey.

The survey index increased to 77.9 in the fourth quarter, from 77.6 in the third quarter.

In terms of sales, 68% of respondents see their company’s sales rising in the next six months, compared to 65% that said sales would grow in the previous survey. Just as in the previous survey, 32% of the CEOs said they expect their company’s capital spending levels to rise in the next half year.

But 35% said they expect their companies to hire more in the next six months, down from 36% in the previous survey.

“The findings of this survey reflect the continuation of a slow, uneven recovery characterized by ongoing economic uncertainty for American businesses,” said Jim McNerney, chairman of Business Roundtable.

Respondents expect real gross domestic product growth of 2.0% in 2012.

The CEOs said materials and regulation were their greatest cost pressures, followed by health care, pensions, litigation, and energy expenses.

The survey was completed between Oct. 31 and Nov. 18. Responses were received from 130 member CEOs. The percentages in some categories may not equal 100 due to rounding.

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