U.S. Small Businesses Expect Strong Q1

Only Two Metrics Trended Downward

Small Biz Q1A new survey from human resources firm SurePayroll shows 87% of small-business respondents believe their company’s first-quarter financial results will be positive or steady this year, demonstrating growing enthusiasm about sales. The data, released as part of SurePayroll’s latest Small Business Scorecard, also shows that 69% of respondents are optimistic about U.S. economic growth in 2014.

“The arrow is pointing up for small businesses right now,” said Michael Alter, president and CEO of SurePayroll. “Optimism is holding strong and there’s a belief in more positive things to come.”

In a March survey mostly filled with confidence, only two metrics trended downward. Nationwide hiring fell 0.1%, month-over-month, while the average paycheck decreased 0.3%, SurePayroll said. Respondents in the U.S. South (0.2%) and West (0.1%) reported hiring gains, but those in the Midwest (-0.2%) and Northeast (-0.4%) reported declines. Average paychecks dropped the most in the West (-0.5%), followed the Northeast (-0.4%), Midwest (-0.3%) and the South (-0.1%). Among major cities, only respondents in Detroit reported month-over-month hiring and paycheck gains.

Still, three times as many survey respondents expect to finish Q1 in better shape than the same time period a year ago. Only one in 10 respondents, in fact, expects a weaker first quarter in 2014. “While there are some headwinds regarding health care and hiring growth, at the end of the day more of our customers are seeing better results this year,” Alter said.

SurePayroll’s Scorecard survey is closely-watched by analysts because it provides data from so-called micro-businesses. The average company reflected in the survey has just six employees, according to SurePayroll.