The pace of hiring at independent businesses is at its best clip in eight years, though most owners are still hesitant to add new positions.
The National Federation of Independent Business, the trade group, says overall small-business optimism is at its highest level since 2007, coming in at 95.2 in April. While that marks a post-recession high, it remains below the historic average and below the level typically associated with expansion.
Still, it is a positive sign for owners. Employees, too, got some good news from the report. Small businesses added an average of 0.7 workers per firm in April. While that was down from March, it was still the seventh-straight month of job additions. That's the longest streak since 2006.
Interestingly, the gains in hiring come even as the vast majority of business owners are still hesitant to add employees. Three-quarters of owners made no net change in employment in April.
And small-business owners continue to struggle to find good workers for the openings they have. According to the NFIB, 41 percent of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the open positions they had. Fourteen percent reported using temporary workers, up 1 point from March.
Employment could pick up as the overall economy improves, but business owners surveyed continued to worry about Washington and government policies. Asked what their top business problem was, 22 percent of owners surveyed cited taxes, 20 percent said regulations and "red tape" and 15 percent mentioned weak sales.
The best news? Credit is still not a problem. Just 5 percent of the owners reported that all their credit needs were not met in April, near a record low. Thirty percent reported all of their credit needs were met, and 53 percent said they had no desire to seel a loan. Only 1 percent reported that financing was their top business problem, according to the NFIB.