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Small business owners still feeling 'fiscal cliff' pinch

by Heesun Wee /  / Updated 

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Small-business owners' confidence was virtually flat in January, as entrepreneurs failed to recoup losses sparked by December's scare about the so-called "fiscal cliff."

That's the finding of a monthly survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. The group said Tuesday that its small-business optimism index edged up just 0.9 points to 88.9 last month from 88 points in December 2012.

While a fiscal deal was reached in January on tax increases and spending cuts, benefits have remained elusive for much of Main Street — a traditional driver of new jobs during past economic downturns. (Read More: Amid 'Fiscal Cliff' Stalemate, Main Street Deteriorates)

"The only good news is that it 'budged' up, not down. If small businesses were publicly traded companies, the stock market would be in shambles," said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. "While corporate profits are at record levels as a share of GDP, small businesses are still struggling to turn a profit," he sad in a prepared statement.

The latest monthly reading among small-business owners also showed low expectations for future growth — clearly not a good way to kick off 2013.

Expectations for improved business conditions remained overwhelmingly low. Actual job creation and job creation plans improved nominally, but still not enough to keep up with population growth.

The NFIB also noted sales trends remain overwhelmingly negative for small employers, with more owners reporting declining sales.

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