â¿¿ Stocks have rebounded: The Dow Jones industrial average reached an all-time high above 14,000 this week and has more than doubled from the low it hit in March 2009, during the financial crisis. That's increasing consumers' net worth and sense of well-being.

A healthy housing market and a persistent stock market rally could spur consumer spending and a revival of growth and hiring at small companies, Regalia says.

"You should see natural momentum building," he says.

But there are other obstacles to a small business recovery. The health care law is high on that list. Businesses aren't expected to know what their health care costs are until the last three months of this year, after states have set up the exchanges that will sell health insurance. Most anxious are owners with 50 or more workers who will be required to provide affordable insurance for their employees or pay a penalty.

Health care costs will likely remain a deterrent to hiring, says Paul Merski, chief economist with the Independent Community Bankers of America, a trade group that is familiar with the concerns of small businesses because its members work closely with them.

The bickering in Congress over the federal budget also will continue to discourage small businesses from hiring and expanding, Merski says.

"We need to get more positive movement in Washington," he says. "It would take a situation where the country's fiscal house at least has the appearance of turning around and going in the right direction."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform