Sometimes when you have a bad day the best thing to do is just cut your losses, go home, get a good night's rest, and wake up with a renewed outlook. This is a little bit like what 2011 was like for the small business economy.

The SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard, which analyzes data from 35,000 small business owners across the country, found hiring was down 3.2 percent in 2011, and wages fell 0.8 percent. This came after slight decreases in the December numbers. It's not surprising. Small business owners proceeded with caution in 2011. But the sun is on the horizon as we start 2012.

Here's why. SurePayroll's Scorecard optimism survey bumped significantly in December, with small business owners' optimism increasing 63 percent, after holding at 53 percent in the previous two months, and hitting an all-time low of 33 percent in September.

SurePayroll's other findings support this optimism; 50 percent of respondents say they plan to hire in 2012, and 56 percent say they plan to increase wages for some or all employees.

Although 2011 ended on a down note, these leading indicators are very positive for the small business economy going forward.

Another compelling finding from the SurePayroll survey: 21 percent of small business owners say they plan to seek loans in 2012, with banks as their primary source of obtaining extra capital.

Of course, borrowing has been a pain point for entrepreneurs in the last few years. It is essential that loans become more accessible. One of our respondents expressed this frustration: "Although we are squeaky clean in terms of financials (no liabilities, etc.), and have been in business for five years, we cannot find banks to lend to us without giving up our firstborn, so I am using my savings to finance the business."

Small business owners are a resilient bunch, and if they don't get assistance, they tend to go it alone. But it could be a tremendous benefit if capital is freed up to hire more people, expand marketing efforts, improve technology, buy new equipment and upgrade their facilities—all efforts respondents indicate they intend to do.

Thankfully, the difficult year of 2011 is behind us. It's time to forget about it and move forward. Small business owners are optimistic by nature, but they don't need to go into the new year with blind faith. The strong showing of optimism in the SurePayroll survey shows real reason to be hopeful for a brighter day in 2012.