Month-over-month hiring declined 0.2 percent in March at small businesses and the average paycheck size fell 0.1 percent, according to payroll provider SurePayroll, but optimism among small business owners rose.

Small-business owners’ optimism rose to 68 percent on the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard, up from 59 percent last month. The scorecard’s optimism survey asked small business owners about their plans for the second quarter. Fifty percent said they plan to make new investments in their businesses in the second half of the year. Those small business owners who plan to invest expect to do so in the areas of new staff, technology and marketing.

Up to 80 percent of the small businesses that responded to SurePayroll’s survey said the first quarter either matched or exceeded their expectations, even though 58 percent said that economic events such as the fiscal cliff deal, the payroll tax increase and the sequester had a negative effect on their business. Half of the survey respondents said they expect to surpass their first-quarter results in the second quarter.

For more details, see the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard.

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