President Barack Obama called them the “engines of growth” in a debate this week against Mitt Romney, but small businesses are feeling decidedly glum about the broader economy and more than half of them have no plans to hire anytime soon.
Just a third of small businesses say they are optimistic the economy will improve this year, down from 61 percent who felt the same way last spring, showed a new survey by The Hartford insurance group released on Thursday.
Their uneasiness about the sluggish economy has small businesses holding off on hiring. Nearly 60 percent of the 2,000 small business owners, with fewer than 100 employees, surveyed back in August said they did not add staff in the last year and 67 percent did not intend to hire over the next 12 months.
That’s disconcerting news about a segment of the economy the U.S. Small Business Administration touts as responsible for creating more than half of all new jobs.
“The last six months something has changed their view point,” said Liam McGee, president and chief executive of The Hartford, which provides insurance to about a million small businesses. “There’s just so much uncertainty about all those things that it’s putting a damper on growth and hiring.”