Small businesses are starting the year slightly more optimistic than last year — with emphasis on the slightly.
The National Federation of Independent Business' monthly Index of Small Business Optimism increased 1.9 points in February to 90.8.
Gregg Thompson, state director of NFIB/North Carolina, said what's happening locally reflects national trends. The NFIB does not provide state specific data.
“The bottom line is that small, family owned businesses still don’t have a lot of confidence,” Thompson said in a statement. “Small business owners are still wary about where we’re headed.”
Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB's chief economist, blamed Washington politicians.
Washington is manufacturing one crisis after another—the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff and the sequester," Dunkelberg said in a statement. "Spreading fear and instability are certainly not a strategy to encourage investment and entrepreneurship.”
For the index, the NFIB survey 870 small businesses from among its members. Among the highlights:
— Weak sales are still the top business problem for 18 percent of owners
— Earning trends were unchanged from January when owners reported a net negative of 26 percent.
— Wages show some improvement with 3 percent of small employers reporting reduced worker compensation while 19 percent reported raising compensation. Seasonally adjusted, a net 8 percent plan to raise compensation in the coming months, up 1 point.
— Demand for credit remained weak. Only 7 percent of owners reported that all their credit needs were not met, up 1 point; 29 percent reported all credit needs met, and 51 percent said they did not want a loan. Only 2 percent of owners reported that financing was their top business problem.