Owners of small businesses may feel more hopeful about the future, but their hiring plans remain on hold.
An index of small-business sentiment compiled jointly by Wells Fargo and Gallup rebounded 20 points in January after falling to its lowest level in two years in November, the nation's fourth-biggest bank said Friday.
Thirty-six percent of small-business owners say revenues at their companies rose over the past year, up from 29% in November, according to the gauge, which surveys 600 small-business owners throughout the U.S. four times a year.
According to the survey, 25% of small-business owners say their company has boosted spending in the last year, up from 18% who said last fall they spent more; 22% say their company slashed its payroll, down from 26% in November.
Still, the number of small-business owners who plan to add jobs over the coming year remained unchanged at 17%. Thirty percent of business owners say they have refrained from adding workers because they fear they may be out of business in a year, up from 24% in January 2012.
"At a time when news headlines report mixed economic news and uncertainty in Washington, our survey shows the volatility of business-owner sentiment today," Doug Case, Wells Fargo's small business segment manager, said in a press release. "Business owners are feeling a bit more positive at the beginning of the year, but they also express concern about the operating environment that could impact future business decisions, such as hiring new employees."
The survey asks owners of companies with less than $20 million in sales how they view their company's financial situation, revenues, hiring, cash flow, capital spending and access to credit both now and in the future.
The upswing in sentiment in January reflects an uptick both in business owners' sense of their current situation and expectations for the coming 12 months.
According to the survey, 57% of small-business owners say they expect their company's financial situation to be at least somewhat good in the next year, compared with 50% who said they felt that way in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Forty-three percent of small-business owners say they expect their revenues to rise, up from 37% who said the same in November. Twelve percent say they expect their company to reduce its number of employees, down from 21% in the fourth quarter.