Conflicting findings in recent small business surveys reflect continued uncertainty over the economic recovery.
The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index, which measures the overall volume of financing to U.S. small businesses, finds that lending to small businesses declined 3 percent in March. The index, released Tuesday, dropped to 98.5 in March from a revised 101.8 the previous month. Borrowing rose 10 percent from a year earlier, the lowest 12-month growth since January 2011, Reuters reports.
Another survey conducted by Intuit also indicated a weakening in the job market as U.S. small businesses reported added 40,000 new jobs in April, a decrease from the 75,000 positions created in March. Intuit reported that the average workweek for small business employees dropped 0.14 percent.
However, a Wells Fargo/Gallup survey released Monday found a more optimistic outlook among small business owners, who said they were finding it less difficult to obtain credit. Since the last survey in January, the number of small business owners who reported difficulty in obtaining credit over the past year declined from 33 percent to 30 percent, while the number of business owners expecting difficulty securing credit over the next 12 months fell from 38 percent to 32 percent.
Nearly a third (32 percent) of respondents said they are carrying less debt compared with one year ago, while 20 percent are carrying more. Nearly half (47 percent) report carrying about the same amount of debt.
A majority of small business owners surveyed in March by Millionaire Corner do not share this rosier outlook. Fifty-six percent said they did not think that the U.S. economy is stronger now than it was a year ago. But in our April survey, 82 percent hold out hope that the economy will improve following the national elections.
The majority (61 percent) believe that the election will end uncertainty over who will lead the country, while 35.5 percent hold out the hope that three will be additional tax breaks for small businesses. Twenty-percent believe that Washington will loosen regulations on businesses.
U.S. Small business represents more than 99 percent of all employers and provides between 60 percent to 80 percent of the net new jobs annually, according to the Small Business Administration.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.