He's not the only optimist. Nearly twice as many small-business owners (32%) expect the economy to strengthen over the next six months as expect it to weaken (17%). "This suggests that there is no recession in the near-term outlook, at least no downturn of significant size," Dunkelberg says. A key factor behind such optimism appears to be President Bush's proposed tax cuts -- his economic policy got high marks from 61% of those surveyed.
Still, entrepreneurs are feeling the effects of a weakened economy. April's survey showed:
-- Only 10%, seasonally adjusted, think this is a good time to expand facilities, the lowest percentage in eight years.
-- Just 26% have hard-to-fill jobs openings, vs. 33% on average for last year. Dunkelberg sees this trend supporting his prediction of 5% unemployment by July.
-- When seasonally adjusted, sales are holding steady, with an equal numbers of businesses reporting sales gains and sales losses. Few are expecting a robust recovery: A net 13% of small-business owners expect sales gains in the next six months, a sharp drop from 33% who, in January 2000, saw rising sales on the horizon. By Theresa Forsman in New York