Small business owners in the United States intend to add approximately 3.8 million jobs this year, according to a new survey.

The Small Business Success Index, released by the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and partner Network Solutions LLC, surveys 500 small business owners on a semiannual basis to measure the overall health of their businesses and understand how they are using technology.

When asked about their hiring plans for 2011, 28 percent of small business owners surveyed said they expect to increase staffing by an average of two full-time employees. These owners report the main reason for the hires is to expand their businesses. But 69 percent of small business owners expect no change in their staffing level. Only 2 percent expect to lay off workers.
Though less than a third of small business owners plan to hire, the jobs they add could reduce the U.S. unemployment rate by 2.4 percentage points.

"Small businesses are the economic engine of the United States," said Janet Wagner, director of the Center for Excellence in Service, in a statement. "As they begin to hire again, owners need to focus on finding the right people to help grow their businesses. They need employees who understand customers' needs and can provide the level of service that is so critical to the success of small enterprises."

The survey asked respondents how well they compete with other companies for good employees, and only 46 percent said they are successful. According to owners, employees best suited for a small business environment are those that have experience working in other small businesses, have a flexible mindset, and a broad skill set.

The Small Business Success Index also measures business owners' overall optimism, which according to the results, is currently rated a "C-" at a score of 73. This is unchanged since the last index was captured in June 2010. Those surveyed report difficulty in accessing capital and challenges in marketing and innovation. The survey also measures how small business owners are using technology, finding 31 percent are currently using social media, up from 24 percent a year ago and 12 percent two years ago.

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