Despite growing economic woes, small-business owners continued to lead the nation in job growth last month. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may affect your business.

Owner Optimism Fades
The nation's small-business owners were feeling less optimistic about the economy in December, Discover reported on Tuesday.

Of 1,000 owners surveyed nationwide, only 28 percent said they felt economic conditions for their businesses were improving, while 65 percent said conditions were getting worse.

Despite the downturn, 32 percent said they planned to increase capital spending, up from 29 percent in November.

"The mood remains cautious as fewer small business owners feel like economic conditions for their businesses are getting better," Sastry Rachakonda, the director of Discover's business credit card, said in a statement

December marked the fifth month of declines in Discover's small-business optimism index.

Job Growth Slows
Led by small businesses, the nation's private-sector employers added 40,000 new jobs in December, the slowest payroll growth in four months, ADP reported Wednesday.

Employment gains at small and midsize businesses, which created 75,000 new jobs last month, were offset by 35,000 job cuts at larger companies, the report said. All the new jobs created in December were in the service sector, while job losses continued in manufacturing, residential construction and financial services. 

A separate report by the Labor Department on Thursday showed new claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 21,000 to 336,000 last week, with declines led by Illinois, New York and Colorado.

Gas Prices Up
After inching down in recent weeks, average gas prices across the nation rose by 7.3 cents last week to $3.053 per gallon, 71.9 cents higher than the same period last year, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday.

Higher prices were reported in every region except the Rocky Mountains, which saw a modest decline of 0.7 cents to $2.921 per gallon.