NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If your business is on solid ground and you can afford it, now is an excellent time to hire, Industry experts say.
"Because labor costs are down and because there are a lot of unemployed people, the quality of applicants is better," says Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business and an economics professor at Temple University. "The question you have to answer is: If I pay these people, will they bring in enough extra revenue to cover their costs?"
Small-business employment fell last month, according to the NFIB's monthly optimism index, in negative territory as it has been for the past 32 of 36 months. Small businesses create two out of every three jobs in the U.S. each year, according to the Small Business Administration.
The picture is expected to brighten this year, the survey found, indicating the economic malaise of the past three years is easing and has provided opportunities for small-business owners gearing up.Approximately 13% of all respondents reported "unfilled job openings," a four-point improvement compared with a month earlier, according to the findings. In the short term, 10% of respondents plan to hire over the next three months, while 9% plan work force reductions. Approximately 6% of employers plan to create jobs, up two points from December -- and the best reading in more than two years. Now is a great time to hire because there are many people out of work and another group who stayed at their jobs through the recession but are unhappy, says Doug Williams, director of Internet marketing for ITX-Alesco Marketing and a former small-business consultant. "It's a good chance to get good talent. Once the economy gets better, there is going to be a huge reshuffling of jobs," Williams says. Entry Interviews Keep Hires on Track Molly Brogan, the vice president of public affairs for the National Small Business Association, says a big determinant on whether companies should hire is access to working capital as well as business in the pipeline.