Health Care, Energy Concerns Slow Small-Business Hiring

Overall, small businesses see Washington as the problem instead of the solution, with 81 percent asking Washington to get out of the way.

Concerns about regulations and energy prices continue to impede growth for small businesses, according to a recent poll commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive between March 27 and April 2, found that while small-business confidence grew in the first quarter of 2012, small businesses continue to lose employees. Three in 10 (30 percent) of small businesses reported laying off employees in the last year.

The poll of 1,339 small-business executives found that 8 out of ten small-business owners cite higher energy prices as an immediate threat to the success of their business. Small businesses concerned about gas prices has more than jumped in the last three months, increasing from 10 percent to 24 percent. The majority of small businesses (78 percent) do not think the administration is doing enough to keep prices low, increase domestic sources of energy or support American job creation. Additionally, nearly three out of four (73 percent) say the new health care law is an obstacle to hiring new employees.

€œThis survey confirms that slow gains in economic growth are being undermined by uncertainty over rising gas prices, an onslaught of pending regulations and stalled pro-growth bills in Congress,€ said Martin Regalia, the Chamber€™s chief economist. €œTo deliver long-term confidence to small businesses, Washington should act to provide certainty and enact regulatory reform that will boost their ability to grow.€

Overall, small businesses see Washington as the problem instead of the solution, with 81 percent asking Washington to get out of the way and 92 percent believing the business community is the best entity to lead the economic recovery. Almost all small-business owners (97 percent) say it is important to vote for a candidate who is a strong supporter of free enterprise; 84 percent say it is very important.

Only 9 percent of small-business owners approve of the job the Democratic Senate Majority is doing on the economy, while 87 percent disapprove. The House Republican majority€™s approval rating on handling the economy has increased from 40 percent approval in January to 46 percent in April, according to the survey. The survey defined a small business as a company with fewer than 500 employees and annual revenues of less than $25 million.

€œSmall-business owners are increasingly demanding accountability from members of Congress on how they vote on the issues that impact their operations,€ said the Chamber€™s senior vice president and national political director Rob Engstrom. €œWe€™re seeing small businesses unable to hire, or worse, forced to let employees go because of the Senate€™s refusal to take up job-creating measures like domestic energy exploration and regulatory reform.€