March 13, 2007 -- Despite steady job creation, higher labor and energy costs dragged small-business optimism down in February, the National Federation of Independent Business reported on Tuesday.

Based on a national survey of small-business owners, the group's optimism index fell 0.7 points last month to 98.2, below its benchmark level of 100.

Fewer owners last month reported plans to increase employment or were expected an upturn in sales or economic conditions, the report said.

Nearly one in four businesses reported lower earnings than over the previous three months, citing weaker sales, higher material costs, and more expensive labor, the report said.

- next -

Published on: Mar 13, 2007