Small business morale heals, but labor market view downbeat

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 8, 2013 8:02am EST

A man is seen in an office window in New York, May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A man is seen in an office window in New York, May 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Small business sentiment clawed back from a 2-1/2 year-low in December, but owners' assessment of the labor market remained downbeat, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business said its optimism index edged up half a percentage point to 88 last month, the second lowest reading since March 2010. The index hit a 2-1/2 year-low of 87.5 in November.

The December survey does not capture the 11th hour deal reached in the U.S. Congress to prevent a raft of sharp cuts in government spending and higher taxes, or the fiscal cliff, that could have drained about $600 billion from the economy at the start of the year.

"Having some certainty about tax rates and some 'tax extenders' will provide some relief to owners, but doesn't guarantee a more positive forecast for the economy," the NFIB said in a statement.

"The January survey will sort this out - will higher taxes and spending cuts be viewed as a 'positive'?"

Labor market gauges worsened last month, with only a net 1 percent of small business owners saying they planned to create new jobs. There was a slight drop in the share of owners reporting that job vacancies were hard to fill.

"More owners expect their real sales volumes to be lower in the first quarter than predict higher sales and more owners plan to reduce inventories than plan to add to them," said the NFIB.

It said capital spending remained in 'maintenance' mode, while plans to make capital outlays remained at recession levels.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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Comments (1)
AZreb wrote:
Small businesses cannot afford to hire more full-time employees now, nor can they afford to expand their businesses since there are still so many questions about Obamacare and what the future talks in Washington will bring on the debt ceiling and other factors.

Yes, the holiday season did increase sales and employment numbers, but those employed were mainly part-time, temporary, minimum wage workers. Not knowing what is coming around the bend from Washington is keeping businesses from making any investments for the future.

Jan 08, 2013 8:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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