By Augusta Victoria Saraiva

July 13, 2021

Sentiment among U.S. small-business owners rose to an eight-month high in June as a larger share expected the economy to improve while more said they plan to expand and hire.

The National Federation of Independent Business optimism index increased 2.9 points to 102.5, the group said Tuesday. The figure exceeded the median projection of 99.5 in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Seven of the 10 components rose in June.

A record 39% of owners, up from 34% the prior month, reported they raised compensation as firms struggled to fill open positions. Some 46% said they were unable to fill vacancies — more than twice the historical average of 22%, the NFIB said.

Twenty-six percent of businesses are also planning to boost compensation in the next three months.

“Optimism is rising as the economy opens up, yet a record number of employers continue to report that there are few or no qualified applicants for open positions,” Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB chief economist, said in a statement.

The number of owners who reported higher average selling prices rose by 7 percentage points to 47%, the largest share since January 1981. The increases were more frequent in the wholesale, retail and manufacturing industries. About 44% of those surveyed plan to raise prices in coming months, up a point from the prior month.

While the quality of labor is the top concern of business owners, 13% of owners — an increase of 5 percentage points from a month earlier — said it was inflation.

— With assistance by Chris Middleton