After a prolonged downturn in recent months, economic optimism among the nation's small-business owners improved in August, SurePayroll reported this week.

Based on payroll data from over 20,000 companies nationwide, small employers increased hiring  last month by 0.42 percent, according to the Chicago-based payroll firm.

At the same time, average small-business salaries  declined by 0.33 percent from July to $32,182.39. So far this year, average salaries have fallen by 1.3 percent, the report said.

More owners in August also said they were optimistic about the economy, adding that the situation isn't as bas as depicted in the media. While a lot of larger firms were going bankrupt, smaller businesses were holding on, they said.