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According to the most recent SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard, hiring remains flat and paychecks are virtually flat in May over the previous month. But small business optimism skyrocketed.

Given that we didn't see an increase in small business hiring or pay, it's a little surprising that three out of four small business owners indicate they are optimistic about the economy – an enormous increase over last month when only half indicated being optimistic.

I'm sure a healthy stock market contributed to renewed enthusiasm. After all, when the market is hot, there's more chance that capital will be freed up and land in the hands of business owners looking to invest – whether it comes from banks or personal funds.

But considering the month was full of bad economic news stories – from lower home prices and decreased manufacturing activity to low consumer confidence – a Main Street economy that is avoiding a steep decline is the real light in our recovery tunnel, and likely one of the reasons more business owners are feeling optimistic.

In last month's column I discussed the many factors that could make the economy downshift quickly. So far the economy's held true. And while May's SurePayroll Scorecard confirms that we continue with a jobless recovery, small business owners see 'neutral' as pretty good. They have started to settle into the new norm, finding ways to grow enough to cover their current staffing needs.

Of course everyone hasn't found solace in the new norm. A jobless recovery is bad for the nine percent of the country that are still unemployed, as well as for the overall economy. While small business owner sentiment may indicate there can be beauty in 'neutral' after such a slow recovery, there's simply no chance of robust growth without hiring.

Last updated: Jun 1, 2011

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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