Small Businesses Report Hiring Trend: Surveys

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A survey from PNC reveals that small business owners, more optimistic about their prospects than anytime since the fall of 2007, and getting ready to hire.

PNC chief economist Stewart Hoffman told Squawk on the Street today that the survey, which the company has been conducting since 2003, shows more confidence among the smallest business owners across the country, what Hoffman called "the grassroots businesses."

Close to one-third of respondents — 28 percent — said they would add full-time staff this year.

That number was reinforced by the number of business owners expressing optimism about the rest of the year: 28 percent said they are feeling positive about 2012 said Hoffman. That number, before the recession, was closer to 35 percent. "There's more room to go," he conceded, and said that the majority of business owners remain neutral. Just 17 percent say they are pessimistic about the business outlook through 2012.

But there is good news in lower numbers, he said. "Only 7 percent said they intend to lay people off this year."

He said businesses surveyed by PNC — two-thirds of which have fewer than 50 employees and about half have less than $3 million in sales — are looking for people with experience in the field, computer and technical abilities, as well as good communication skills.

That need for seasoned employees is good news for older workers. In February, employment for workers ages 55 and olderrose by 277,000 for the month, according to the Labor Department.

In addition, a survey from CBIZ, reports that among companies with 300 or fewer employees, hiring increased by 21.66 percent during March. That is on top of an increase of one-quarter percent in February. According to CBIZ's Philip Noftsinger, it is the highest month-over-month increase since June 2010.

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