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Small Business Optimism Increases Despite Falling Sales Trends

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March 20, 2015—U.S. small business optimism increased slightly in February to the third highest reading since early 2007, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index.

The index gained 0.1 point to 98 last month, in spite of slow economic activity and poor weather across the country.

Of the 10 Index components, the largest gain was in the percent of owners reporting hard-to-fill openings, which experienced a three-point gain and a nine-year high.

The index, which is a survey of 716 small business owners, found that 53 percent of respondents reported hiring or trying to hire, but 47 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Of those, 14 percent cited the shortage of skilled labor as their top problem.

The NFIB said that the job openings figure is one of the highest in 40 years and suggests that labor markets are tightening and that there will be more pressure on compensation in the coming months.

Although the survey found a small increase in the number of small businesses increasing inventories, businesses were slightly less optimistic on prospects for the next six months and the outlook for sales.

There was also little change in business owners' perceptions of earnings and expansion plans.

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