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Economic Outlook For Small Businesses Remains Mixed

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According to a recent survey, 80 percent of small businesses did not hire in the first quarter. | Alamy

Recent surveys may have shown that business owners are generally feeling better about the economy, but they're not necessarily acting on that sentiment. According to Manta's Q1 2012 Small Business Wellness Index, 80 percent of small business owners did not hire any employees in the first quarter of 2012.

Earlier this month, an American Express OPEN survey revealed that only 35 percent of employers had plans to hire full or part-time workers in the next six months, with most businesses more concerned about retaining current business than growth. That sentiment hasn't changed, as the Manta index reported a 30 percent drop in new business activity in early 2012.

According to the report, businesses are laying blame on rising gas prices, with 43 percent claiming prices have affected profits and 82 percent saying that prices will negatively impact business if they continue to rise. Some 20 percent of businesses have had to transfer some of that burden to customers, raising prices to cover costs, while 11 percent noted that the extra expenditure limited their ability to hire and grow their business.

In addition to dealing with extra costs, 58 percent of business owners are having more difficulty accessing credit than last year, according to the survey. Issues with red tape don't stop there, as 43 percent said their taxes were more complicated this year. And the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has also posed a challenge, with 31 percent claiming they did not understand the potential tax credits now available to them and 53 percent admitting they are not currently taking advantage of it.

Manta, an online community for business owners, polled more than 1,100 of its members for the quarterly index.

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