ECONOMY

Get Started: Business optimism back to pre-recession levels

OPTIMISM RETURNS TO PRE-RECESSION LEVELS

Small business owners are as optimistic as they were before the Great Recession.

That's the finding of a quarterly survey by Wells Fargo, whose Small Business Index rose 20 points from three months ago to a reading of 100. That's the highest level for the index since it reached 100 in the third quarter of 2007, a few months before the official start of the recession.

The survey is in line with others taken since the election that have shown owners are more optimistic. More evidence that owners are upbeat came Wednesday, when payroll provider ADP reported that its small business customers added 104,000 jobs in February, up from an average of 43,000 a month during the previous six months.

In the Wells Fargo survey, which questioned 602 owners in early February, 29 percent said they planned to hire in the next 12 months, down from 36 percent at the end of last year, but still well above the 21 percent in the third quarter of 2016.

Seventy-one percent of owners described their companies' current financial situation as somewhat or very good, up from 66 percent three months earlier. Seventy-nine percent expected their companies' financial situation to be good 12 months from now; the previous reading was 77 percent.

Revenue expectations were a little higher in the latest survey; 61 percent predict their revenue will increase over the next 12 months, up from 58 percent.

Company owners have gotten a confidence boost following the November election. Many have said in surveys they're hoping for lower taxes and health care costs under President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.

KEEPING UP WITH SEARCH TRENDS

There's continual change in the technology behind search engines. SCORE, the organization that gives free advice to small businesses, is sponsoring an online seminar explaining how to work with Google's new systems. It will be held Wednesday, March 22, at 2 p.m. Eastern time. You can learn more and register at http://bit.ly/2mqTK6J

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joyce-m-rosenberg