The company’s Small Business Scorecard optimism score inched up to 65% this month from 63% in December. Optimism has grown steadily since a low of 33% in September.

SurePayroll’s data indicated a hiring decline of -0.2% last month, with wages holding flat. The South is the only region of the country that showed slightly positive growth in both hiring (0.1%) and wages (0.3%) since last month. The rest of the country was again in the red, aside from flat wages (0%) in the West.

“It’s frustrating to see us shift back into neutral,” said SurePayroll President and CEO Michael Alter in a statement. “There was a lot of excitement heading into 2012. We were finally starting to accelerate; there was a lot of optimism about the future. To see this shift is frustrating, but like small business owners, I’m still hopeful because one month doesn’t make a year.  We just need the right opportunities for growth.”

Alter believes the upcoming Presidential election has small business owners wondering which direction the country will go in. In addition, a combination of uncertainty about Greece and the euro, along with the U.S. economy not growing as much as previously thought and gridlock in Washington, has put the brakes on the small business economy.

Cohn writes for Accounting Today, a Source Media publication.

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