WASHINGTON Small businesses in the United States grew less optimistic about recovery prospects for a fifth straight month in July, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.
The NFIB's Small Business Optimism Index fell 0.9 point in July to 89.9, largely because of weaker expectations for real sales gains and reduced hope for an improvement in business conditions in the next six months.
William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the small business group, said that aside from concern about future sales, the 1,817 respondents to the survey seemed troubled by other, less easily defined worries.
"The debt ceiling madness" may be acting as a damper on businesses' willingness to hire and invest, Dunkelberg said.
"Twelve percent (seasonally adjusted) reported unfilled job openings, down 3 points, suggesting that the unemployment rate will rise," the survey summary said. Some 50 percent of respondents said their firms had made capital outlays in recent months, unchanged from June and still an historically weak reading, it said.
(Reporting by Glenn Somerville, editing by Neil Stempleman)