Survey: Smaller firms optimistic

A new survey from Bank of America shows a notable jump in the percentage of small businesses that plan to hire in 2016.

Small-business owners have had a burst of optimism even as the economy has slowed.

That’s the finding of a new survey released by Bank of America, which found that 56 percent of owners are optimistic about the national economy, up 8 percentage points from a survey last spring and 11 points from one taken a year ago. The latest survey, which questioned 1,001 owners, was conducted late August-late September.

B of A found owners considerably more upbeat than other recent surveys have shown. That surprised Bank of America small-business executive Robb Hilson, but he also said it coincides with an increase in the bank’s small-business lending. Its loans to small companies were up 4 percent through the second quarter. Lending has increased as small businesses extend their recovery from the recession. “There’s plenty of evidence in the economy that there are a lot of companies on solid footing,” Hilson said.

The Commerce Department reported in October that the U.S. economy slowed sharply in the summer. But most economists think growth has been strengthening since the July-September quarter ended.

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The B of A survey showed a big increase in owners planning to hire in 2016: 67 percent compared to 46 percent in the spring and 51 percent a year ago. Thirty-five percent planned to seek a loan in 2016, up from 24 percent in 2015.