Small business holds pessimistic economic outlook, survey finds

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Expectations that business conditions would improve increased by 5 points. But overall confidence remains dismal, registering the fourth lowest reading in the survey’s 39-year history.

“Owner pessimism is certainly not surprising in light of higher taxes, rising health insurance costs, increasing regulations and just plain uncertainty,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist at NFIB.

Dunkelberg said he didn’t expect President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night to change the minds of many small-business owners.

“The President will address the state of our nation tonight, but he apparently won’t have much that’s positive to relay to our small-business community — not while the pall of uncertainty over economic policy continues to depress investment spending and growth,” he said.

The survey found that more small-business owners reported declining sales totals than positive trends.

Slightly more owners, 11 percent, said they added jobs than reported cutting workers, at 9 percent. Eighty percent, meanwhile, made no changes in employment.

More businesses than not reduced their inventory stocks, according to the survey.

The report is based on the responses of 2,033 randomly sampled small businesses in NFIB’s membership, surveyed throughout the month of January.