05/01/2012 01:14 pm ET

Small-Business Owners' Outlook Highest Since July 2008

Although hiring among small businesses dropped from 75,000 to 40,000 new jobs in April, a new survey shows that optimism on Main Street is still rising. The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, which measures small-business owners' outlook, increased to 23 in April from 15 in January. That’s the highest figure since July 2008, although still well below where the numbers were prior to the recession, when the index reached a high of 114 in 2006. The study has been conducted since August 2003, and quarterly since December 2003.

Results of the survey were based on telephone interviews with 603 business owners conducted in early April. The index also showed positive signs of development for the “Future Expectations Dimensions,” a measure of how business owners view their next 12 months in terms of financial situation, revenue, cash flow, capital spending, number of jobs and ease of obtaining credit. This was up to 24 in April from 21 in January.

However, small-business lending stalled in March, which has led to cautious optimism on Main Street for now. Another Business Confidence Survey by Insperity found that more than 40 percent of small-business owners surveyed were unsure about the timing of the economic rebound, but 75 percent said they are meeting or exceeding the 2012 performance plans they outlined at the first of the year. Wells Fargo and Gallup’s numbers echo this present progress with their “Present Situation Dimension” measurement -- owners rating their situation over the past 12 months -- rising to -1 in April from -6 in January.