Three years ago today, Lehman Brothers collapsed, turning what had been a mild recession into the worst economic disaster in 70 years. The Great Recession hit bottom five months later, and in some ways things have improved for small business owners since then. And yet, comparing recent data with that from the depths of the recession shows that the economy's small business engine is still sputtering. 

81: Index of small business optimism in March 2009
88: Index in August 2011
103: Index in March, 2004 

558,000: Number of new businesses in 2009
565,000: Number in 2011

63: Number of IPOs priced in 2009
154: Number of IPOs priced in 2010
144: Number of IPOs priced in 2011 (annualized)

8: Percent of small business reporting unfilled job openings in 2009.
15: Percent in 2011

11: Net percent of small business owners expecting the economy to improve in 2009.
-26: Net percent in 2011

-4: Net percent of small businesses planning for higher sales in 2009.
-12: Net percent in 2011.

-1: Net percent of small businesses planning to increase employment in 2009.
5: Net percent in 2011.

8.5: Percent of workforce unemployed in March 2009
9.1: Jobless rate in August 2011

- 284,000: Monthly change in aggregate number of small business jobs in March 2009
58,000: Monthly change in small business jobsAugust 2011

9.2 million: Number of self-employed workers, March 2009
9.4 million: Number in August 2011

20: Percentage of small businesses looking to expand in January 2006. 
1: Percentage in March 2009 
5: Percentage in August 2011