ECONOMY

Bank of America survey small business optimism surging

Small business owners' optimism about the economy has turned around dramatically since before the election, according to a survey released by Bank of America.

The number of owners expecting the national economy to improve over the next 12 months jumped to 51 percent in the survey released Thursday, from 31 percent in a survey taken from August to October. The number of owners expecting growth in their local economy also rose sharply, to 49 percent from 36 percent.

Hiring plans dipped from the fall; 15 percent of owners expect to add staffers during the next year, down from 22 percent. However, small businesses have stepped up their hiring in the past few months, which means many companies may not need to add more staffers for a while.

Both findings are in sync with several other recent surveys, but the Bank of America survey questioned a larger pool of owners, 1,300, than others have done.

Owners have been getting more confident since the election, but they're still cautious about making a commitment to new staffers until they see whether the Trump administration and Congress can deliver on promises like lower taxes and fewer regulations.

They also remain conservative about borrowing, a stance many owners took in response to the Great Recession; they've paid down debt and don't want to burden their companies with new loans. The Bank of America survey found that 8 percent of owners planned to apply for loans this year, down from 9 percent.

But companies are considering other sources of money. The most frequently cited in the survey were personal credit cards, investors, online lenders and family and friends.

The survey was conducted in March and April.