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Small-business owners' confidence slips amid economic concern

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WASHINGTON -- Small-business owners were more pessimistic last month about the economy's outlook, driving down their overall optimism, the National Federation of Independent Business said Tuesday.

The group's Small Business Optimism Index slipped to 93.9 in September from 94.1 the previous month. The drop was driven by a big drop in confidence in the direction of the economy.

The reading for expectations about business conditions in six months was minus 10% in September compared to minus 2% the previous month.

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The figure represents the percentage of respondents who think conditions will be better minus the percentage who think conditions will be worse.

Hiring expectations also fell, with 9% of small-business owners saying they expected to add to their payrolls. That was down from 10% the previous month.

Bill Dunkelberg, the trade group's chief economist, said the drop in the outlook for business conditions "is evidence that many owners are keeping an eye on Washington.

“Prospects for politicians and policymakers ‘getting it right’ are low, and job creators are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads thinking, ‘This is certainly not the way to run the largest enterprise in the world,’" he said.

Dunkelberg said the problems implementing the new healthcare law and the continual "manufactured" crises in Washington probably would keep consumers and small-business owners pessimistic about economic growth. 

[For the record, 2:30 p.m. PST Oct. 8: An earlier version of this post reported that the Small Business Optimism Index was released Monday. It was released Tuesday.]

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