Survey Finds Small Business Outlook Improving, But Hiring Still Lags
While small business confidence is improving, it hasn’t yet translated into hiring, according to the results of the U.S. Chamber’s quarterly Q1Small Business Outlook Survey released today.
Thirty percent of small business owners said they lost employees over the last year, and one half have kept the same number of staff. “We’d like to see that hiring number well up over the 50% range,” Regalia said. “It’s moving that way, but not there yet.” And it may take awhile to get there, the survey data suggests. Almost two-thirds of respondents said that they are not likely to hire over the next two years, and just 22% said that they will add employees over that time frame, an insignificant increase from the January survey. The survey of 1,339 small business owners was conducted from March 27, 2012 to April 2, 2012
The survey results suggest that policies from Washington are negatively impacting hiring. Concerns about overregulation were at their highest levels, with 42% of small businesses citing it as a major concern, and 52% citing it as the top threat to their business, an increase of 9 percentage points since last June.
Twenty-four percent of respondents cited gas prices as a top concern, up from 10% in January to 24%. Seventy-eight percent think the Obama administration has not done enough to keep prices low, increase domestic sources of energy, or support American job creation. “Following the administration’s misguided decision on the XL pipeline and missed opportunities to increase American energy aspirations, there’s real fear also about the impact of energy prices, and we see that pop in the survey,” says Chamber Senior Vice President and National Political Director Rob Engstrom.
The survey results did contain some positive news, however. Some 17% of small business owners said that the U.S. economy is headed in the right direction, upr from 10% in January. In another positive sign, 37% of small business owners said that the business climate over the next two years will improve, cimpared to 25% who said it will worsen. This is a net improvement of 9 points since the January survey. “The optimism is conditional on the economy continuing to improve, and we did see a bit of retrenchment between the fourth quarter GDP and what we’ve seen on the first couple of months this quarter,” Regalia noted.