While fewer CEOs are upbeat about current economic conditions, a growing number are expecting a turnaround later this year, the Conference Board reports.

Only three percent of 95 business leaders surveyed said economic conditions had improved over the first quarter, compared to seven percent in the previous quarter, the New York-based private research group reported. Yet 19 percent said they expected the economy to rebound within the next six months, up from just 16 percent. Those anticipating growth within their own industries also increased from 17 percent to 23 percent.

"CEOs' assessment of current conditions suggests we're still mired in a period of extremely slow growth, and while their short-term outlook moderately improved, they remain quite cautious," Lynn Franco, the group's director of consumer research, said in a statement.

Franco added that cautious attitudes have resulted in scaled back hiring plans, with half as many employers expecting job growth in their market sectors compared to last year.

Overall, the group's CEO optimism index has dropped to its lowest level in eight years.