American Express: Small Businesses Hint of Recovery

American ExpressAmerican Express reports some hopeful signs among small business owners who still have a dim economic outlook, but are increasingly planning to hire or make capital investments.
Nearly half – 48 percent – plan to make capital investments in their businesses, up from 42 percent last fall and closer to the spring 2008 level of 53 percent.  That’s when investment plans began a steady decline as the financial crisis was about to erupt and the economy set off on a downward slump.
The figures come from the American Express OPEN “Small Business Monitor,” a semiannual survey of business owners in its ninth year.  More than 700 small business owners or managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees took part.
The survey also found that more than one-quarter of small business owners have plans to hire, or 28 percent – up from the 23 percent that said the same in fall 2009.
However, there is still a growing pessimism about the economy.
Those who see the current economic climate negatively affecting business prospects climbed from 24 percent six months ago to 29 percent, and the number of entrepreneurs who see the economy improving with expanding opportunities for their businesses fell from 26 percent last fall to 18 percent.
“The economy has certainly taken its toll on business owners, and with only one-in-four characterizing the economy as ‘recovering’ based on their own business performance, the recent upturn has eluded many of them,” said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN.
But despite the gloomy outlook, most surveyed said they were surviving the worst recession in decades, with about one in five saying their business was not harmed or even flourished.
More than half, 58 percent, of businesses said they were “staying afloat,” and 21 percent described their firms as “sinking ships.”
“However, an additional 21 percent said either the economy had not adversely affected their companies or they have grown their firms in the rough economy,” American Express said.

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