By Joyce M. Rosenberg Associated Press
Small business owners are slowly growing more confident about their companies and the economy — but they’re also still cautious about hiring and expanding.
American Express surveyed small business owners from late February through early March and found that 34 percent expect their businesses to grow during the next six months, regardless of how the economy fares. That’s up from 31 percent last fall. Meanwhile, the number of owners who expect the economy to hurt their business in the next six months fell to 27 percent from 34 percent.
But close to half the owners surveyed — 44 percent — said they have no plans to hire or may cut their staff in the next six months. The good news is that’s down from 61 percent last fall. Thirty-five percent said they would be hiring, up from 31 percent.
Using their companies’ performance as a guide, 35 percent of the survey participants said the economy is recovering, up from 24 percent last fall. The number of owners who said we’re still in a recession fell slightly from the fall, to 34 percent from 38 percent.
Small business owners have taken a number steps to keep afloat. Forty-one percent said they had stopped hiring, and the same amount said they had frozen staffers’ salaries. Thirty-six percent said they dipped into their own savings or other personal assets to help the business. Twenty-eight percent brought a family member into the business without pay to help out.