Economic uncertainty and concern about government regulations have small businesses worried for the future and disinclined to hire new employees, according to a fourth quarter survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The study surveyed 1,322 small business executives, and found that just over half said “economic uncertainty” was one of the top reasons they were not hiring new employees.
Government regulations, the federal deficit and the national debt also worried the business owners. 84 percent of respondents indicated that the national debt made them uncertain about the future. 86 percent said that regulations, restrictions and taxes were major concerns.
What could be coming down the pipeline next is also scary, with 59 percent saying the possibility of future regulations is even scarier than the current regulations.
Ideally, 82 percent of small business executives said, Washington would just stay out of their way, rather than try to help. Only 6 percent want more help in dealing with the current economic climate.
As far as dealing with unemployment, 63 percent of respondents said they’re unlikely to expand their workforce in the next year, and just 19 percent said they hired more people over the past year.
The reasons include economic uncertainty, as well as low sales, and 36 percent said concern about possible new regulations kept them from expanding their payroll. Just under a third said the new health care law and the requirements that come with it are keeping them from hiring.
The antipathy toward Washington is focused on bureaucrats, who were blamed by 47 percent of business executives, while President Barack Obama was blamed by 29 percent, and Congress by just 18 percent.
“The policies coming out of Washington are only exacerbating the economic uncertainty that small businesses continue to cite as their greatest challenge,” said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue. “Heading into an election year, our country’s job creators are speaking with a unified voice in saying that we need a change of course in Washington.”
Nonetheless, there is optimism about the success of these businesses. Forty percent of respondents believe their best days are in the future, and just 20 percent say they are behind them. Moreover, 34 percent said they believe that the small business climate is likely to improve in the next two years, an uptick since the third quarter, when just 23 percent expected this outcome.
The Chamber of Commerce began conducting the survey in May 2011, as a means of tracking the outlook of small businesses. This survey was conducted online from December 30, 2011 through January 6, 2012.