Small-business owners are more optimistic about the economy than they have been in months, says a new survey.
In October, the Discover Small Business Watch -- a poll of 750 business owners with fewer than five employees -- posted its biggest one-month gain since April.
The four-year-old monthly index leaped 10.4 points from September, to 84.2. In August it sank to 73, the lowest point in one and a half years.
Over a quarter of small-business owners (28 percent) said they thought business would pick up in the next six months, up from 20 percent in September. (The highest number it's reached this year was 30 percent back in April.) Forty-three percent said things will get worse – the smallest percentage since February, and down from 55 percent in August and September.
Experts say some of the optimism may come from the prospect of change in Washington.
"The fall season has ushered in more positive views of the economy, but in this politically charged atmosphere, small-business owners are likely in a holding pattern with the rest of us to see how the economy responds after Election Day," said Ryan Scully, director of Discover's business card.
Asked who would have a greater impact on the economy, just over half of respondents (51 percent) chose a Republican-controlled Congress. Thirty-nine percent said it's better for Democrats to stay in control, and 12 percent said they weren't sure.
About one in 10 small businesses is hiring, up from six percent in the past two months. Some 15 percent said they are laying off workers, up from September's 12 percent, but down from 20 percent in August.
Spending on business development is also rising, with 22 percent of small-business owners planning to increase what they invest. That's up from 16 percent last month.