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Small business optimism keeps climbing

December 28, 2011

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The nation’s smallest employers don’t yet see the glass as half full, but they’re consistently reporting it as slightly less empty.

The latest index showed a decline in the number of employers who think business conditions and sales will soon worsen. (Jeffrey MacMillan/For The Washington Post) Small-business optimism increased for the third consecutive month, gaining 1.8 points in November, according to the National Federation of Independent Business index released Tuesday. That merely lifts the index to a yet-weak 92.0, still well below pre-recession levels and two points lower than the mark set at the start of the year.

“After so many months of pessimism, November’s modest gain made it feel like spring, again,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “We have good reason to be optimistic about last month’s report and hopeful about what it means for the future. Still, our current reality is still very much the ongoing economic winter.”

Eight of the 10 index components improved or remained unchanged from the October report, with the most substantial gains posted in sales expectations gains and outlooks for business conditions — again, not necessarily because more owners expect improvement in those areas, but because fewer owners expect sales and business conditions to worsen.

Employment also jumped last month, ending five months of declining numbers. The index, based on the responses of 781 randomly sampled small businesses, indicated an overall increase in employment of 0.12 workers per firm. Seasonally adjusted, 13 percent of the owners added workers while 11 percent reduced employment.

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By  |  12:32 PM ET, 12/13/2011

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