No one is saying the San Francisco Bay Area economy is out of the woods yet, but for the first time in almost two years, more companies plan to increase their workforce than are planning layoffs - tipping the balance toward a possible upswing in the job market. Based on a survey of 498 CEOs and other top executives in the nine Bay Area counties surveyed in early February by the Bay Area Council, 20 percent of companies plan to add staff while 17 percent expect to trim jobs. "It looks like the Bay Area's job market is showing signs of life, and may be on the rebound," says Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. For example, in the tech-heavy businesses of Santa Clara County, the tenor of those participating in the survey was decidedly more upbeat. In Santa Clara, 25 percent of the executives responding said they expect to be adding new hires, against seven percent that anticipated laying off staff. Another 64 percent said they expect to maintain the current staffing level. Smaller firms are more likely to be adding staff than big companies. Among executives at small companies (those with fewer than 100 employees) 25 percent plan to expand hiring in the next six months, while 14 percent expect to announce layoffs. By contrast, among the companies with more than 10,000 employees, 57 percent are projecting layoffs, while only eight percent plan to hire. --Doug Bartholomew