Small-business owners are feeling more bullish about the economy than they have in three years, a new Citigroup (NYSE: C) study has found.

Forty-eight percent of small-business owners think economic conditions are "good" or "excellent," up from 43% a year earlier, according to the Citibank Small Business Pulse survey conducted in May and released Tuesday. Only 14% think economic conditions are poor, the lowest percentage since Citibank began conducting the survey in 2010.

This increase in optimism has inspired plans for growth. More than a quarter of respondents said they plan to hire full-time workers in the next year, and 13% said they are thinking of adding a new location, both higher percentages than a year earlier. Only 5% plan to reduce their staff, the survey found. Sixteen percent said they would like to hire but cannot find the right candidates.

The cash crunch for small businesses has eased, the survey also found. Fifty-nine percent said that they were making progress meeting payroll, and 39% said they were paying down debt.

"The rise in those that have a favorable view of current business conditions is unmistakable," Jerome Byers, head of Citibank Small Business, said in a news release. "While about half still fault sales for preventing them from achieving business goals, just as many business owners project improved sales this year and next."