ECONOMY

Small business owners have post-election surge in confidence

Small business owners had a post-election surge in optimism and say they are stepping up their plans to hire new workers.

That's the finding of a survey released Thursday by Wells Fargo & Co., which questioned 602 small business owners from Nov. 11 to 17.

Just over half the owners surveyed said they believed actions by the administration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump and Congress will make their companies better off. Sixty-one percent believed Trump will focus on issues important to them as business owners.

The Wells Fargo Small Business Index, which measures owners' optimism, rose to 80 from a reading of 68 taken in July and 54 in a survey year earlier. It was the highest reading since it registered 83 in January 2008, in the early days of the Great Recession.

Thirty-six percent of the owners surveyed said they plan to hire in the next 12 months, up from 21 percent in July.

Small business owners have been cautious since the recession, and surveys by banks and small business advocacy groups have consistently shown owners were reluctant to hire or expand. Expectations that the incoming administration will be friendly to business are likely adding to owners' more upbeat mood. During the campaign, Trump said he would reduce government regulations that he called a burden to businesses. His Cabinet choices, which have been announced since the survey was conducted, include officials who support a reduction in federal regulations.

Revenue expectations helped feed the boost in optimism in the Wells Fargo survey. Fifty-eight percent of owners forecast their revenue would be up in the next 12 months, an improvement from 48 percent in July. That is also increasing owners' plans to spend on computers, machinery and other big-ticket items — 35 percent plan such expenditures in the next 12 months, up from 25 percent

Seventy-seven percent forecast their companies' financial situation would be good over the next 12 months, up from 73 percent in July.