Small Business Hiring Stalls as Economic Worries Linger: Report

Of small businesses polled, 52 percent perceive their top issue and biggest challenge as the general economic climate.

Small businesses' outlook for the national economy is not positive, and nearly two out of three do not plan to hire in the year ahead, according to a poll conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by Harris Interactive. The poll of 1,322 small business executives-conducted between Dec. 30, 2011, and Jan. 6, 2012-found that more than eight out of 10 (85 percent) now believe the U.S. economy is on the wrong track.

"The policies coming out of Washington are only exacerbating the economic uncertainty that small businesses continue to cite as their greatest challenge," said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue. "Heading into an election year, our country's job creators are speaking with a unified voice in saying that we need a change of course in Washington. With government spending and regulations out of control, small businesses don't know what's going to hit them next."

Eight out of 10 say they would rather have Washington stay out of the way than provide a helping hand. Similarly, nearly nine out of 10 (86 percent) say they would rather have more certainty from Washington than more assistance (6 percent) to deal with the economy. The survey defined a small business as a company with fewer than 500 employees and annual revenue of less than $25 million.

Of small businesses polled, 52 percent perceive their top issue and biggest challenge as the general economic climate. Half of all small businesses surveyed are not sure if America's best days are ahead or behind, and the threat of over-regulation continues to cause concern. Fewer small businesses plan to lose employees over the next year (11 percent). However, there was no increase in number of employers seen either in 2012, with 63 percent planning to keep the same number of employees in the next year. Only 19 percent of small business owners say their business has added employees over the last year (virtually unchanged since July).

As the election year begins, small businesses offered a clear recognition of the importance of politics in policies that impact their businesses. The vast majority of small business members surveyed (93 percent) find the Chamber's work in educating the public on political issues and candidates valuable. Nearly all of the small businesses polled (98 percent) consider a candidate's position on free enterprise and business issues as important in how they vote.

"It's clear that small business owners want lawmakers to be held accountable for how they voted on critical business issues," said Rob Engstrom, the Chamber's senior vice president and national political director. "That's why this year the Chamber is committing to launch our most aggressive voter education effort in this institution's 100-year history."