In the startup and venture capital world, the first quarter of 2015 will go down in history as something of a dud. That's also true of middle-market companies.

These firms--defined as having between $10 million and $50 billion in annual revenue--had flat sales growth and saw hiring fall off in the first quarter of 2015. That’s according to the latest survey from the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM).

The data is consistent with numerous surveys in the first quarter, which show that Gross Domestic Product growth, venture capital and initial public offering activity all paused in the first quarter.

Average revenue for middle market companies notched up a scant two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.2 percent. That’s up almost a full percentage point compared to the first quarter 2014.

And such firms expect growth will decrease in the next 12 months to 5.3 percent, although that's a decrease of 0.7 percent compared to their 12-month outlook in the fourth quarter.

What’s more, 64 percent of firms reported positive revenue growth, a drop of 7 percentage points compared to the first quarter of 2014, and a six percentage point drop compared to the fourth quarter of 2014, NCMM reports.

Middle market firms also pared back on hiring. Average employment growth in the first quarter of 2015 decreased to 4.2 percent, from 5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. However, the first quarter growth represents a more than half a percentage point increase in hiring growth compared to the first quarter of 2014.

In the next 12 months, mid-market firms expect to increase hiring 3.2 percent, although that's a decrease of 0.8 percentage points compared to their expectations in the fourth quarter, and flat from the year ago first quarter.

Nevertheless, a majority of mid-market executives expressed strong confidence about the national economy. Seventy-nine percent said they were confident or somewhat confident about prospects in the next 12 months. That’s an increase of six percentage points compared to the fourth quarter, and 15 percentage points compared to the first quarter of 2014.

That confidence is expressed in the willingness of mid-market companies to invest in their businesses. More than two-thirds of businesses said they would invest, rather than save cash. While that’s about one percentage point lower than in the fourth quarter, it represents a four percentage point increase compared to the first quarter of 2014.

NCMM compiled its data from interviews with 1,000 c-suite executives in the first half of April.