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Small businesses start year with sunny outlook: survey

Small business owners are starting 2013 with a sunnier outlook than they ended 2012 with, according results of an online survey released on Friday.

The quarterly Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business survey in early January found a significant jump in optimism among 601 small business owners since surveying a random sample of the group online in November. “Small-business owners as a group have returned to being essentially neutral about their current operating environment from being more pessimistic last November,” Gallup reported.

Yet optimism is down overall among the group from a year ago, and business owners point to many reasons to remain worried about their business prospects. Gallup reports that:

“More than half of U.S. small-business owners say healthcare costs and taxes on small businesses are hurting their operating environment ‘a lot,’ making these the top two concerns among eight issues tested ... They are followed by the price of energy, government regulations, and the federal debt ceiling.”

The survey also asked those small business owners who do not have plans to hire to tell why they would not add jobs. Gallup reports that the top four reasons owners do not intend to hire are: lack of need, concerns about revenues and sales, concerns about the overall U.S. economy, and concerns about the potential cost of healthcare. According to Gallup:

“U.S. small-business owners are clearly concerned about how healthcare costs are affecting their companies. These worries are likely tied--at least in part--to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its potential impact. Small-business owners are trying to keep their workforces under 50 employees so they are exempted from key parts of the act and in this regard are reducing employee hours so they are not counted as full time.”

Gallup attributed increases in small business owners’ optimism to the resolution of some fiscal cliff issues and to the boost that January saw in the consumer confidence index. The polling organization suggested that “although the nation's small businesses remain fragile, owners are ready to move their companies forward and the economy ahead if they see significant positive signs in their operating environment in the months to come.”

For more details of the survey, see the Wells Fargo Business Insight Resource Center.

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