Small business employees in July saw their average paychecks rise for the first time this year, with the average paycheck increase coming on the heels of a profitable first half of the year for small businesses, according to SurePayroll's Small Business Scorecard.
The average paycheck was up across the board regionally—0.4 percent in the Midwest, 0.2 percent in the South, and 0.1 percent in the Northeast and West.
Meanwhile, the percentage of independent contractors working for small businesses nationwide grew 0.02 percent to 6.59 percent.
The Scorecard compiles data from small businesses nationwide and reflects the trends affecting the nation's "micro businesses," those with 1-10 employees. The average business reflected has six employees.
Despite the pay bump, hiring slipped 0.2 percent in July nationwide, after being flat in June. Regionally, it was flat in South, down 0.4 percent in Midwest and Northeast, and down 0.1 percent in the West.
The Scorecard optimism survey found that 62 percent of small businesses were profitable in the first half of 2014, and close to seven in 10 (68 percent) also say they're optimistic about the small business economy.
Small businesses have used a variety of tactics to strengthen themselves since the recession, according to the latest Scorecard optimism survey.
The top tactics small business owners said are most important include planning around an environment of slow growth, leaner staffs, increased marketing efforts, key hires, and using technology to streamline the business and save cash.
"Our survey results tell us that small businesses nationwide are taking advantage of a wide variety of technology to streamline operations, save money and increase productivity," Andy Roe, general manager for SurePayroll, told eWEEK. "These range widely from mobile apps for payroll to online storage and retention tools to email platforms and social media for marketing efforts."
Roe said small businesses are focusing on optimizing their Websites as nearly three-quarters use their site to market and sell their products, while around a third use online advertising.
Small businesses reported that the most popular marketing channels are their Website, email, social media and online advertising, and 33 percent currently make use of Facebook advertising. In addition, 52 percent use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to advertise job openings, Roe added.
Overall, small business owners are expressing a very positive outlook for the second half of 2014, as 77 percent expect to be profitable, according to the June optimism survey.
Further supporting their positive outlook, 66 percent of small business owners said they are optimistic about the economy, and seven in 10 small business owners said they are on pace to meet or exceed revenues from last year.
Some small businesses consider struggles in the economy as a major challenge, and while many have closely watched health care reform's impact on small businesses, it was not cited as a major challenge.
"Small businesses face a myriad of challenges, from funding to finding employees with the appropriate skill set to often even overcoming the learning curve of business itself," Roe said. "In the past six months, small businesses report the greatest challenge as slow economic growth. Approximately 50 percent of small businesses see struggles in the local and national economy as a major challenge to their business."