Small businesses found it harder to get bank loans as the economy slowed at the end of 2014.

Just 35 percent of small companies surveyed in late January and early February by Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management and Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. said they were able to get loans during the preceding three months. That was down from more than 43 percent in a survey taken in October and November.

The economy slowed in the final quarter of the year to a 2.6 percent annual growth rate, compared to 5 percent in the third quarter.

Despite the drop in economic activity, small businesses overall have been doing better. Revenue rose an average 2.2 percent in the past 12 months, up from 0.8 percent in the last Pepperdine/Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. survey.

Hiring plans improved slightly, with 54 percent of businesses saying they planned to hired between one and 10 employees in the next six months, up from the previous survey's 52 percent.

The biggest challenges they faced in the last quarter were uneven cash flow, reported by 18 percent, and difficulty attracting customers, cited by 16 percent.

The Pepperdine Private Capital Access Index for small businesses rose slightly to 28.9 from 28.5 in the fourth quarter. The index measures companies' demand for and ease in getting financing including loans.

A separate index measuring demand for financing rose to 33.2 from 31.9.

The survey, questioned more than 3,500 small- to medium-sized companies in Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp.'s database. The company compiles credit reports on small businesses.

--Associated Press