Online payroll provider SurePayroll Inc. is seeing strong optimism among its small business clients about the economy.

The March 2014 SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard and survey indicates that 87 percent of small businesses expect a strong or steady end to the first quarter.

In addition, optimism about the small business economy remains high at 69 percent, according to the survey, almost unchanged from the beginning of the year. Those results come despite month over month hiring being slightly down at 0.1 percent and the average paycheck slipping 0.3 percent. However, three times as many survey respondents expect to finish the first quarter in better condition than last year.

“The arrow is pointing up for small businesses right now. Optimism is holding strong and there's a belief in more positive things to come," said SurePayroll CEO and president Michael Alter in a statement. “While there are some headwinds regarding health care and hiring growth, at the end of the day more of our customers are seeing better results this year.”

Hiring in the South appears to be up 0.2 percent month over month; down 0.2 percent in the Midwest; down 0.4 percent in the Northeast; and up 0.1 percent in the West. The average paycheck size is down across the country, however, dropping 0.5 percent in the West, 0.1 percent in the South, 0.4 percent in the Northeast and 0.3 percent in the Midwest.

The full report is available on the SurePayroll blog.