The National Federation of Independent Business says weak sales remain a concern for business owners, though, according to its own monthly optimism index.

The Washington-based organization noted that job creation not only turned negative in December, but deteriorated further last month. The average change in employment per firm over the past three months was down 0.15 employees.

"While recent political rhetoric favors small business, it is belied by the actions of policymakers whose new policies and activities almost exclusively support big businesses. While the economy is moving forward, albeit at a snail's pace, it is not nearly fast enough to dramatically improve the unemployment situation, which continues to languish," federation analysts wrote.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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