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Wells Fargo Small Business Index: Business Owners More Optimistic To Start 2013

After the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index dropped to the most pessimistic level in two years in November, business owners are more optimistic as 2013 begins. The latest Index improved 20 points to positive 9 (+9) in January 2013, up from negative 11 (-11) in November 2012, indicating an improvement in optimism since the November elections. Key drivers of this improvement in the survey, conducted Jan. 7-11, 2013, include increased business owner optimism about revenues, capital spending, and jobs over the past 12 months and more optimism about their overall financial situation, revenues, cash flow, and jobs over the next 12 months. A year ago, in January 2012, the Index was at positive 15 (+15).

While optimism improved from the fourth quarter, the survey paints a mixed picture with respect to jobs and hiring. More business owners (71 percent) expect the number of jobs at their companies to stay the same over the next 12 months, and business owners planning to add jobs during the same period remained unchanged at 17 percent. Among those who hired new employees the past 12 months, 35 percent of owners are hiring fewer employees than they need, up from 29 percent in January 2012, but below the 42 percent of November 2010.

“At a time when news headlines report mixed economic news and uncertainty in Washington, our survey shows the volatility of business owner sentiment today,” said Doug Case, Small Business Segment manager for Wells Fargo. “Business owners are feeling a bit more positive at the beginning of the year, but they also express concern about the operating environment that could impact future business decisions, such as hiring new employees.”

Small Business Hiring

This quarter, the Index survey included additional questions on hiring and jobs. When small business owners who are not hiring were asked for the reason, the top responses were:
  • Don’t need additional employees at this time (81 percent)
  • Worried about the revenues and sales to justify new employees (74 percent)
  • Concerned about the status of the U.S. economy (66 percent)
  • Worried about the potential cost of health care (61 percent)

The number of small business owners saying they are not hiring for fear they may no longer be in business in 12 months increased to 30 percent in January up from 24 percent from one year ago.

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