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A Path Forward


While we may be seeing a recovery on Wall Street, Main Street continues to struggle. Though the stock market is rising and the pace of job loss is easing, small-business optimism continues to decline, according to SurePayroll's monthly Small Business Scorecard survey.

In the survey, optimism levels in September dropped to 60 percent -- an 11 percent decline from optimism levels the prior month. Small business wages also continue to decline, down 6.5 percent year to date. At the root of these figures are tight credit restrictions and concerns over the cost burden small businesses may have to shoulder to support the proposed health-care legislation.

Surprisingly, despite those seemingly discouraging statistics, hiring on Main Street is up almost 2 percent year-to-date and independent-contractor hiring is up 14 percent year-to-date. This illustrates that any recovery for small businesses will include a catching-up period to move past the current state of "underemployment," where people are working less hours, or working for less money.

For small-business owners moving forward, here are a few tips as Main Street strives to recover:

1) Where applicable, leverage the growing number of independent contractors to provide immediate and efficient help.

2) Streamline budgets by reevaluating, and in some cases renegotiating existing expenditures. Even fixed costs can be variable over time.

3) Be creative and explore new ways to save money. Just because your grandfather had certain procedures for the family business doesn't mean it works best for you in modern times, in this challenging economy (and with today's technology at your fingertips!).

4) Be gracious with your employees. Everyone is doing more for less right now. Recognize their accomplishments, acknowledge their efforts, and thank them for working so hard.

More on these economic trends can be found in our Small Business Scorecard, which tracks hiring, salary, and other trends for U.S. small businesses. For more information, visit

Last updated: Sep 30, 2009

MICHAEL ALTER | Columnist | President of SurePayroll

Michael Alter is president of SurePayroll, America?s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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