Confidence among U.S. small companies rose in February to the highest level in three years as hiring and sales expectations increased, a new survey shows. The National Federation of Independent Business’s optimism index climbed to 94.5, the highest since the recession began in December 2007, the Washington-based group says in a statement. The new reading compares with the average 100.7 during the previous expansion that started in November 2001.
“The future is looking brighter for a few more small-business owners,” William Dunkelberg, the group’s chief economist, said in the statement. Still, he adds, “this is not a reading that characterizes a strongly rebounding economy.”
Figures on employment also turned more optimistic. Small businesses with plans to add to payrolls rose 2 points to a net 5 percent. A net 15 percent of firms in the February survey said they were having trouble filling job openings, the highest level since September 2008.
February’s report also signaled the “end of a long period of price cutting,” the NFIB said, without providing specific numbers. “This signals a return in the months ahead to increases in average prices as supply adjustments restore pricing power.”
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