An index measuring sentiment among small business owners gained for the second consecutive month, moving just below a level that would indicate positive growth in the economy.
The National Federation of Independent Business survey registered an 88.9 reading, a notch below the 90 that would indicate the climate for small businesses is growing rather than merely not shrinking as quickly.
"We've been suggesting that we will be slightly negative this quarter and push through to positive in the third," NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg said in a live interview on CNBC.
Nine of the 10 indicators in the NFIB survey were either flat or positive, with credit concerns being the only dark spot.
"They expect it to be difficult to get financing over the next six months," Dunkelberg said. "In spite of the heavy easing that's going on they're not seeing a real optimistic outlook."
The move in the May survey represented a gain of 2.1 points, on top of the 5.8-point improvement seen in April.
Of the NFIB member firms participating in the survey, 16 percent said loans were harder to get than in the previous quarter, which marked the highest reading since the 1980-82 period.
However, the survey found that more businesses planned to increase inventories than in April, while 12 percent said they expect the economy to improve, a sharp gain as well.
Employment, though, also remains a question mark, with no change over April in the amount of companies planning to hire.