Small-business owners are more optimistic than they've been in years, and more than a quarter plan to hire full-time employees, according to a new survey. Released this week, the Citibank Small Business Pulse revealed that 48% of owners say business conditions are good or excellent, up from 43% in May 2012 and twice the rate of three years ago.
Meanwhile, half of small-business owners believe annual sales will increase this year, with one-third predicting growth in excess of 10%. Survey respondents were even more bullish about 2014, with 54% predicting sales gains for next year. At the same time, owners who say business conditions are poor decreased to 14%, the lowest level since the Citibank survey launched in 2010. "The rise in those that have a favorable view of current business conditions is unmistakable," said Jerome Byers, head of Citibank Small Business. "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."
As outlooks improve, 26% of business owners say they will hire full-timers within the next 12 months. That's up from 15% in the summer of 2012 and 17% in the summers of 2011 and 2010. Only 5% of owners are considering layoffs. Another 13% of respondents are planning to add a new location, while 60% say they're achieving or making progress toward maintaining their cash flow.
Still, it's not all roses for small-business owners. Some 16% say they would like to hire, but cannot find qualified candidates. Of those, 62% report that candidates need more experience, while 44% note that they cannot find skilled labor. "The number-one item on the action plan for all companies to achieve business goals is training employees, followed by reinventing marketing/advertising and incorporating technology," according to a statement from Citibank.