According to a new PNC Economic Outlook survey released this month, nearly half of small business owners expect their sales to increase within the next six months. But although one in four business owners is highly optimistic about his or her own company’s prospects, compared to 23% last fall, only one in four expects to hire any new staff.

Commenting on the findings, PNC’s chief economist Stuart Hoffman said, “The powerful engine of the U.S. economy is not firing on all cylinders, but there are sparks of optimism related to sales, profits and housing prices.”

The biannual survey’s spring findings, which look at both small and mid-sized U.S. businesses, reveal that:

  • 58% of business owners are optimistic about the U.S. economy over the next six-month period while 42% are pessimistic, a turnaround from fall’s 42% and 57% respectively.
  • 71% are optimistic regarding their local economies, while only 28% are pessimistic, a change from 59% and 39% in the fall.
  • One-third plan to raise their selling prices and only 5% intend to lower prices.
  • Only 41% believe that the federal government could take actions that would influence their hiring plans in a positive way.

When asked their reasons for planning not to hire new employees within the next six months, nearly one out of three small business owners said they will choose to do more work with fewer employees. This supports the findings of an earlier survey by AWeber Marketing that found that business owners are carrying the bulk of the weight of their businesses themselves, with 93% of businesses having 5 or fewer employees and 88% of small business owners saying they are their only marketers. The AWeber study surveyed 3,000 business owners and entrepreneurs.

According to Hoffman, the elements holding back the U.S. economy are the continuing uncertainty about federal spending, tax and deficit actions, hiring freezes and ongoing layoffs, especially within the federal government, and continued restrictions on U.S. exports to Europe. However, he also noted that PNC’s findings support an early prediction that moderate job expansion will continue through 2013.


MacArthur, Amanda. “Did You Know: 88% of Small Business Owners Are Their Only Marketers?” Swipely. April 10, 2013.

PRNewswire. “Wary Small Business Owners to Delay Hiring“. April 4, 2013