By a growing stack of indicators, 2015 may be the year Main Street finally reaches a comeback.
Small business trends are heading positive, including more job creation, higher wages and an improved overall sentiment among small business owners—which recently reached an eight-year high. While lending among start-ups remains relatively tight, recent joint data from the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta show pockets of businesses seeking capital with plans to grow.
Among smaller businesses seeking credit under $100,000, nearly 40 percent said the primary purpose was business expansion, according to the banks' small business credit survey released Thursday.
More business owners are feeling buoyant, too. The small business optimism index rose 2.3 points to 100.4 in December—the highest reading since October 2006. The latest sentiment reading was released last week by the National Federation of Independent Business.
The optimism index has 10 components, with eight showing gains—a sign Main Street could finally be shaking off the Great Recession. Smaller employers plan to hire more workers, invest in capital outlays and anticipate higher sales.
Another Main Street positive is higher wages. NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg told CNBC that compensation is trending upward among small business owners, rising by an average of 20 percent over the past several months. December showed a 25 percent increase in compensation, and November recorded a 21 percent uptick.
The wage gains may reflect additional health-care benefits. "The thing to remember is that compensation includes wages and benefits," Dunkelberg said. "That increase could be due to Obamacare."
Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 100 or more full-time workers have to offer coverage or face a penalty of $2,000 per worker per year for failing to comply.