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U.S. Chamber Small Business Survey Shows Stalled Hiring Despite Increased Optimism

Sunday, April 15, 2012 - 8:00pm

Gas Prices, Over-Regulation Seen as Top Threats for Small Businesses Looking to Expand

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Concerns about regulations and energy prices continue to impede growth for small businesses, according to a recent poll commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive between March 27 and April 2, 2012, found that while small business confidence grew in the first quarter of 2012, small businesses continue to lose employees. 30% of small businesses reported laying off employees in the last year.

“This survey confirms that slow gains in economic growth are being undermined by uncertainty over rising gas prices, an onslaught of pending regulations, and stalled pro-growth bills in Congress,”  said Dr. Martin Regalia, the Chamber’s chief economist. “To deliver long-term confidence to small businesses, Washington should act to provide certainty and enact regulatory reform that will boost their ability to grow.”

The poll of 1,339 small business executives found that eight out of ten of small business owners cite higher energy prices as an immediate threat to the success of their business. Concern about gas prices has more than doubled in the last three months, increasing from 10% to 24%. The majority of small businesses (78%) do not think the administration is doing enough to keep prices low, increase domestic sources of energy, or support American job creation. Additionally, three out of four (73%) say the new health care law is an obstacle to hiring new employees.

Overall small businesses see Washington as the problem instead of the solution, with 81% asking Washington to get out of the way and 92% believing the business community is the best entity to lead the economic recovery.

Almost all small business owners (97%) say it is important to vote for a candidate who is a strong supporter of free enterprise; 84% say it is very important. Only 9% of small business owners approve of the job the Democratic Senate Majority is doing on the economy; 87% disapprove. The House Republican majority’s approval rating on handling the economy has increased from 40% approval in January to 46% in April.

“Small business owners are increasingly demanding accountability from members of Congress on how they vote on the issues that impact their operations,” said the Chamber’s Senior Vice President and National Political Director Rob Engstrom. “We’re seeing small businesses unable to hire, or worse, forced to let employees go because of the Senate’s refusal to take up job-creating measures like domestic energy exploration and regulatory reform.”

The survey defined a small business as a company with fewer than 500 employees and annual revenues of less than $25 million.  To read a complete copy of the Q1 Small Business Outlook Survey, please visit: http://www.uschambersmallbusinessnation.com/community/small-business-outlook-survey---march-2012-

Survey Methodology

The Q1 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Study was conducted online between March 27, 2012 and April 2, 2012 by Harris Interactive among 1,339 U.S. Chamber of Commerce members and non-U.S. Chamber members. Data was weighted to be representative of the small business population.  This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. This report contains data from this survey and references data collected in the Q2, Q3, and Q4 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Study.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.