More U.S. employers expect to pay higher salaries to new hires as demand for professional staff improves with a stronger economy, a semiannual survey by Dice Holdings Inc found.

A quarter of employers and recruiters surveyed expect salaries for new employees to rise from last year, up from 10 percent who said so six months ago, according to Dice, which runs specialized websites aimed at finance, technology and health professionals.

About half said salaries would be the same as last year, the survey found. The survey, conducted late last month, includes responses from about 800 companies, recruiting firms and government offices.

A majority said they would ramp up hiring in the second half of the year, and about 10 percent expect a substantial increase in hiring. About 26 percent said they were taking less time to fill open positions, largely because it is easier to find qualified professionals.

Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said the number of candidates applying for jobs was up significantly, but that was well below the 54 percent who said so in November.

A government jobs report due on Friday is expected to show more than 500,000 jobs added outside the farm sector in May, with the unemployment rate expected to dip to 9.8 percent.

(Reporting by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)