"There's a shift in emphasis in terms of what small businesses have faced over the last eight years in terms of taxes and regulations, with Republicans holding control of the House and Senate, and Trump winning," said Raymond Keating, chief economist for the nonpartisan Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. "Small businesses are zeroed in on tax and regulatory reform."
Separate data from Staples last week underscored the positive post-election feeling among small employers, with 85 percent saying they are optimistic about the climate in the new year, 67 percent planning to hire and 72 percent planning on increasing staff wages in 2017.
Small-business borrowing also increased in November, according to Thomson Reuters/PayNet, with the lending index increasing for the first time in six months after Trump was elected.
More work to be done on Main Street
Despite the surge in optimism, hiring is flat. For December, the NFIB reported job creation as an increase of only 0.01 workers per firm, while job openings fell two points. In addition, sales improved by just one percentage point, despite consumer confidence soaring in December to its highest levels since 2001.
On CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers referred to the slew of positive economic data post-election and the market rally as a "sugar high" that he expects to "last for awhile."
If job creation and sales numbers climb, small-business optimism could continue to hold strong, Keating said, adding that action from the Trump administration on key areas, including tax and regulatory reform, will also have a positive impact.
"We are expecting good things to happen," Keating said. "But when will they happen, and when will these policies get implemented?"
Correction: The NFIB's small-business optimism index increased to 105.8 in December. An earlier version misstated the figure.