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Small Business Optimism Endures

Firms that held up through the Great Recession are stable, but that hasn't inspired an uptick in hiring or paychecks yet.
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Even as corporate earnings continue to soar and big companies appear to be very profitable, I've remained cautiously optimistic about the economy, because the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard data doesn't reveal the uptick in hiring we've wanted to see. With gas prices rising and growth slowing, the general economic climate seems to reflect what our data has said all along—any recovery has not yet created action.

The month of April was no different, with our data showing small business owners hiring a bit less (-0.1%) and paychecks down (0.3%) too. Yet, the Scorecard optimism survey shows 65% of small business owners still optimistic about the U.S. small business economy.

Small businesses seem to be doing well, perhaps even better than they have in the past, but not well enough to begin bringing on more employees. So we're left with a tale of two economies. If you're running a small business and you survived the Great Recession, our optimism meter suggests you're pretty stable. But, if you're looking for a job, the climate is still very difficult because businesses are hesitant to risk the success they are having by putting money into hiring. We're left going around in a bit of a circle.

In addition, the SurePayroll survey also found that for those small business owners looking to hire, 40% are having trouble finding qualified candidates for positions in technology, sales or marketing, customer service, and administrative work.

If there are jobs available, but the unemployed don't have the skills to fill them, we need to work on our country's education system. We need to give people opportunities to acquire the necessary skills for these jobs if they don't have them. For instance, today's service jobs require a high level of skill. An employee has to be able to understand the business she's working for, operate complex database and computer systems, and problem solve on multiple levels.

Certain jobs of the past may not return to this new economy, but we need to be ready for the jobs of the future. It's a little bit like what hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."

Last updated: May 1, 2012

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 Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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