Small businesses aren’t scaring easily in 2012 if a recent National Small Business Association report is any indication. Today it released its 2011 Year-End Economic Report, revealing that more business owners are optimistic about their future. The number of those more confident rose from 64 percent to 75 percent in six months and is the highest percentage reported in three years.

Sixty-six percent of business owners expect a flat economy for 2012. While this sounds dismal at first blush, the number of small businesses expecting a recession year dropped by half, from 30 to 14 percent. In addition, 20 percent of business owners expect an expansion, nearly doubling from 12 percent.

Small businesses are experiencing revenue growth as well – 46 percent respondents reported increased revenue, up from 39 percent. Additionally, 31 percent reported decreases in revenue, down from 37 percent. While job growth remains the same, says the report, only 23 percent reported job decreases – the lowest number in three years.

Meanwhile, when asked which issues affect small business owners the most, 44 percent ranked the national deficit No. 1, up to 46 percent from 34 percent. Reducing tax and regulation burdens and bringing down the cost of healthcare ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. Forty percent of small business numbers feel burdened by regulatory measures and consider them a major challenge, an 11-percent increase.

In other news, the ADP announced this week that their projections of a national job growth of 170,000 for January were in large part spurred by small business growth. According to their report, businesses with under $50 million added 95,000 jobs, and 72,000 of those jobs came from medium-sized businesses, defined as making between $51 million and $499 million. As far as large companies? Only 3,000 were created in January, the ADP projects.

Today, the Labor Department announced that 243,000 jobs were added in January and the unemployment rate has dropped in 8.3 percent, a drop for the fifth straight month and the lowest in the year. Stocks surged in response to the news, the Dow jumping 157 points and the NASDAQ composite index closing at its highest level since the end of 2000.

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