Small business owners see glass as half-full

NEW YORK (AP) — Many small business owners are saying they're ready to hire.

That's the finding of a survey released Thursday by Bank of America. Thirty-one percent of the participants in the survey said they plan to hire during the next year. They include many owners who are optimistic about prospects for their businesses over the next 12 months — more than half said they want to hire workers to handle an expected increase in sales.

The results show that owners have an attitude of "the glass is half full," Robb Hilson, head of Bank of America's small business operations, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Owners aren't crazy, giddy with joy, but they continue to persevere in the face of challenges," Hilson said.

The greatest obstacles to success that owners see are health care costs, cited by 77 percent, and the effectiveness of government leaders, cited by 76 percent.

Hilson said owners he has spoken to say they are concerned about how gridlock in Washington will affect their companies. Following the federal government's 16-day partial shutdown in October, Congress allocated only enough money to keep the government open through Jan. 15. And lawmakers have a Feb. 7 deadline to raise the country's borrowing limit.

The survey questioned 1,000 owners from mid-September to early October, including the first three days of the government shutdown.

Despite concerns about the health care law, 56 percent of owners surveyed said the implementation of the law wouldn't affect their hiring plans. Another 26 percent did say they would hire only part-time employees or freelancers. Employers are not required to buy insurance for those workers.

The survey is in line with others released recently that showed owners are getting more confident about the economy and are willing to hire, although at a slow pace. A survey released this week by researchers at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management showed that a growing number of owners are willing to borrow money to expand their companies. Owners struck a more cautious tone in a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, which sends its questionnaires only to its members.

With the holiday season approaching, owners are more optimistic about how they'll do on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two key shopping days. Twenty-nine percent of owners of businesses that sell consumer products or retail or wholesale goods said Black Friday has a significant impact on their profits, up from 9 percent a year ago. Nearly 16 percent said Cyber Monday has a significant impact on earnings. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday, when many consumers are expected to do their online shopping, is Dec. 2.

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