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Survey: Middle market US business owners plan more hiring and raises for employees

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Survey: Middle market US business owners plan more hiring and raises for employees

One in four expect to hire over the next six months - the most since 2012.

Small and mid-sized business owners nationwide are increasingly optimistic about the prospects for their own businesses and more expect to increase hiring and wages for their employees over the next six months, according to a recent survey by financial services provider PNC.

The findings reveal that one in four (26%) expect to hire additional full-time employees, the most since 2012 and second highest since 2007. Forty-two percent, meanwhile, intend to increase employees' pay, which is the most since 2007. One in four businesses (26%) also say they have hired in the last six months -- a significant increase over the 18 percent in the spring.

Owners, however, are also finding it increasingly difficult to hire qualified workers.

This positive outlook is bolstered by a decline in pricing pressure, in part due to the sharp drop in energy prices. Twenty-eight percent plan to charge higher prices this year, down from 38% one year ago. For prices charged by suppliers, 50% expect price hikes this year compared to 62% last year.

"Small businesses are like the economy's grass roots based on the employment and economic activity they create," said PNC's Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman. "These encouraging results demonstrate the job market will continue to grow for at least six more months and also strongly support PNC's forecast for real GDP growth of 2.5% – comparing fourth quarter this year to 2014."

Owners, however, are also finding it increasingly difficult to hire qualified workers.  The survey shows that 34% say it has become harder to hire qualified employees than it was a year ago. One in 10 (11%) who are not hiring say they it is because they cannot find the right skilled workers.

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