Times are looking brighter for many small-business owners, but there’s still a nagging fear that dark clouds are looming around the corner.
The National Small Business Association’s 2014 Mid-Year Economic Report finds that many small business owners have seen their hiring rise in the past six months—albeit slowly. Twenty-three percent of business owners survey hired new employees in the past six months compared to 22 percent that reported hiring in the six months prior. However, only 19 percent of small-business owners reported reducing their employee headcount in the past six months—the lowest percentage since 2009. Nearly half of those surveyed by NSBA have increased employee compensation over the past six months.
A healthy 72 percent of business owners surveyed were confident of the future of their business, compared with 66 percent six months ago.
“More small-business owners than at any time in the last six-plus years say today’s economy is better than it was five years ago,” NSBA President Todd McCracken says in a news release. “Unfortunately, the majority still believe the coming year will bring a flat or recessionary economy.”
While the survey results are cheery overall, there are trouble spots: 56 percent of business owners expect a “flat,” not growing, economy over the coming year with economic uncertainty being the number-one challenge to future growth. Moreover, more than a quarter of business owners surveyed (28 percent) said they still have trouble getting adequate financing for their business—a percentage that hasn’t changed much over the past two years.
NSBA surveyed 1,252 owners of businesses with less than 500 employees in late July and early August. The results somewhat echo a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. It found that small-business owner optimism rose in July, though many business owners remain pessimistic or uncertain about U.S. economic growth.
Business owners “lack confidence that it’s still going to be an improved trajectory,” Holly Wade, a senior policy analyst for NFIB, told Fortune. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there and the idea that sales will continue to improve and consumer confidence will continue to improve — they’re not banking on that.”
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