NU Online News Service, Feb. 11, 10:42 a.m. – William M. Mercer Inc., New York, says rising health insurance costs and the economic downturn have had a noticeable effect on human resources executives’ attitudes.

When the benefits consulting firm surveyed HR executives at hundreds of large employers in 1999, the respondents told researchers they were more worried about recruiting good employees than they were about the cost of health benefits.

When Mercer repeated the survey in 2001, the HR executives said they were more worried about the cost of health benefits.

Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who called sharing costs with employees “very important” increased to 18%, from 15%.

Mercer published the full survey report in a journal published by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, Brookfield, Wis.