North Carolina business owners are more optimistic about their company’s prospects and are more likely to hire new employees than they were six months ago, according to a new survey from PNC Financial Services Group.

“The business mood has improved from the fall,” said PNC economist Mekael Teshome. “The improvement is significant ... but it’s not large enough to suggest some massive breakthrough.”

Of the 151 owners of small and midsized businesses surveyed in North Carolina, 47 percent expect sales to increase, up from 34 percent in the fall. Similarly, 39 percent anticipate increased profits, versus 32 percent previously.

On the hiring front, 12 percent plan to add new full-time workers, up from 8 percent in the fall.

Teshome said the federal government shutdown and sequestration dampened the outlook of business owners in the fall. In addition, the overall “healing economy,” including a declining unemployment rate, has helped increase expectations.

But that optimism only goes so far. Only 53 percent plan to make capital investments in the next six month, a decline from 58 percent in the fall and 60 percent a year ago. “Despite the improvement in business sentiment, there is still a cautionary attitude among North Carolina business owners,” Teshome said.

The survey was conducted between Jan. 21 and March 7 and included businesses with revenue ranging from $100,000 to $250 million.

Staff writer David Ranii

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