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The Economy This Week

Small-business optimism hits record low; gas prices continue to creep up.
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The mood of the nation's small-business owners continues to decline amid higher costs and growing cash-flow issues. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may affect your business.

Outlook Declines

More small-business owners feel the economy is getting worse, prompting a growing number to cut spending and hiring plans, Discover reported Monday.

Of more than 1,000 owners surveyed nationwide, 79 percent said they felt the economy declined further in June, up from 71 percent in May and the highest level since Discover launched the surveys two years ago.

More respondents last month responded to cash-flow issues and othter concerns by cutting spending and hiring plans for the months ahead, the survey found.

"With prices rising, especially for gas and food, just about everybody is feeling the squeeze," Ryan Scully, director of Discover's business credit card, said in a statement.

He said reduced spending can cut into profits, leaving owners with less to invest in finding new business.

Job Growth Eases

Small employers created 7,000 new jobs in June, the sector's smallest employment gain in nearly six years, ADP reported Wednesday.

At the same time, job cuts at midsize and larger businesses reduced total private-sector employment by 79,000 jobs last month, including the first service-sector job losses since November 2002, according to the New Jersey-based payroll firm.

The ADP monthly employment report is based on national private-sector payroll data.

According to the Conference Board, the number of new jobs posted online last month was unchanged from May and 11.2 percent below a year ago. June marked the fourth straight month of year-over-year declines in online job ads, the New York-based research group said. Some 3.8 million job openings were advertised online last month, or about 2.5 vacancies for every 100 persons in the labor force.

"Spring is typically a time of seasonal increases in labor demand, but not this year," Gad Levanon, the research group's senior economist, said in a statement.

Gas Prices keep Rising

Average gas prices across the nation rose by 1.6 cents to $4.095 per gallon, continuing weeks of steady increases and record highs, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday.

Prices were up in every region accept the West Coast, where they dropped by less than a cent to $4.456 per gallon, the report said. The Gulf Coast continued to offer the nation's lowest average prices, which inched up by 0.9 cents to $3.928 per gallon, the only region where the cost of a gallon gas has remained under four dollars.




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