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The Economy This Week

Small-business owners continue to scale back spending; gas prices hit another record high.
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Despite a bleaker outlook on the economy, small-business owners continued to bolster the nation's job growth last month. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may affect your business.

Owner Outlook Fades

Economic confidence among the nation's small businesses continued to fade last month, prompting more owners to cut back on spending, Discover reported Monday.

In a survey of 1,000 small-business owners nationwide, 55 percent described the economy as poor, up from 53 percent in March. Fewer owners said conditions for their business were improving, with nearly half planning to reduce spending in the months ahead.

"Small-business owners are clearly cautious about the economy and demonstrating resiliency," Sastry Rachakonda, the director of Discover's business credit card, said in a statement.

He blamed the weaker outlook on broad market conditions. On the upside, fewer owners reported cash-flow issues in April, the survey found.

On Tuesday, the Conference Board reported further declines in consumer confidence, citing weaker business and job conditions combined with record-high gas prices. A Commerce Department report on Wednesday showed household income gains in March were matched by rising consumer prices.

Small-Business Payrolls Up

Amid employment declines at larger businesses, small employers created 42,000 new jobs last month, ADP reported Wednesday.

All told, private-sector payrolls grew by just 10,000 in April, with gains at smaller firms offset by continued job cuts at big and midsize businesses.

While 64,000 new jobs were added in the service sector, 54,000 were cut in the goods-producing sector, the report showed.

Gas Prices Rising

Average gas prices hit another record-high last week, climbing 11.9 cents to $3.508 per gallon, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday.

Higher prices were reported in every region, including increases of over a dime in the East Coast, Gulf Coast and the Midwest. Gas stations in parts of California were charging over $3.85 percent gallon, the highest rates in the country.

Gas prices have been rising steadily for four consecutive weeks.

Last updated: May 1, 2008




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