Should the Small Business Optimism Index be renamed the Pessimism Index? That’s what the National Federation of Independent Business is saying, looking at July’s feeble rise in small-business confidence. The latest survey shows that small-business confidence rose merely 0.6 points in July to 94.1, after dropping nearly one point in June. The reading is well below the average 100 over the last 35 years, says NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg, as the concerns of small-business owners across the country are not being addressed by the government. Chief among these concerns, he says, are increasing health insurance costs, regulations, tax complexity and economic uncertainty. “We are in the ‘tankeroo,’ not sinking, but trying to stay afloat,” says Dunkelberg.No Relief Ahead for the Unemployed The survey of 1,615 randomly sampled NFIB members shows that hiring did not resume in July. The average increase in employment was -0.11 workers per firm – the third negative monthly reading in a row. While this suggests that small-business owners have stopped layoffs, they are far from adding significant numbers to their staff. And with ObamaCare on the horizon, many small businesses are trying to stay under the cutoff of 50 full-time employees, so as not to trigger the law’s employer mandate for health insurance. This trend was noted in the July survey, as 15% of respondents reported using temporary workers – up three points since June. Due to the economic uncertainty plaguing the country, the number of small-business owners who expect better business conditions in the next six months fell by 6% in July. This is two points lower than the reading taken in June.
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