Small business borrowing in June hit its highest level in more than three years, according to the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index.  

It’s up 25 percent from last June and is at its highest level since April 2008, months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The loans PayNet tracks typically are four-year projects, used to buy or update plants and equipment. Borrowing rose in all industries and by all lender types.

The news comes after Tuesday’s report that small business hiring is picking up. 

Despite encouraging signals, small businesses still are dogged by fears about the economy.

A separate report found that just 12 percent of small businesses believe an economic recovery currently is under way—down 23 percent from May.  The survey, conducted in July by Insperity, found that 40 percent of small businesses are putting aside any expectations of an economic rebound until the first quarter of next year, or beyond. Tops on the list of short-term concerns: the economy, cited by 79 percent of respondents. 

"The lackluster economy combined with significant long-term concerns have caused many owners of small- to medium-sized businesses to slow their growth activities," Insperity chairman and chief executive officer Paul J. Sarvadi said in a statement. "Elevated fears over the national debt, government expansion and prospective tax increases are currently outweighing the natural optimism and entrepreneurial instincts in the small business community."

Meanwhile, U.S. consumer spending dipped in June for the first time in nearly two years, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Spending dropped 0.2 percent, the first decline since September 2009.

Said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York: "The growth potential for the economy has slowed significantly."