Following the largest increase in a decade, small business optimism held steady in the fourth quarter, according to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index.
The Index is based on a survey conducted October 2-6.
In the quarterly survey, which measures the optimism of small business owners, the overall Index score dipped slightly to 103 in October – down from 106 in July when it was the highest Index reading in a decade.
A contributing factor to the three-point decrease was how business owners evaluated their current finances. Seventy-one percent rated their financial situation today as very or somewhat good in October, down five percentage points from 76 in July. Despite this slight decline, business owners’ financial situations remain at pre-recession levels.
In October, business owners were asked to identify the most important challenge facing their businesses today. Sixteen percent said hiring and retaining quality staff is their top concern, up from 13 percent last quarter and the highest reading on this measure since the question was added to the survey in 2013.
While hiring is a top challenge, 32 percent of business owners reported plans to increase the number of jobs at their business in the next year – the second highest percentage in the 14-year history of the survey.