Online payroll provider SurePayroll said it is seeing a significant increase in optimism among small business owners, indicating a better year ahead for small businesses, despite recent declines in hiring and paycheck size.

SurePayroll’s Small Business Scorecard survey found 70 percent of small business owners are feeling optimistic about the future, compared to only 55 percent in December of 2012.

"We saw a year of recovery in 2013,” said SurePayroll CEO and President Michael Alter in a statement. “Seeing that optimism is higher going into 2014 gives us reason to believe small business owners are confident about the future, which typically results in increased hiring and growth. Another sign of a stronger 2014 is the fourth quarter decline we’ve seen in 1099s.”

The results indicated a decline in the number of 1099s for independent contractors hired by small businesses during the fourth quarter, with only one in four small businesses indicating they would hire more contractors this year than last year.

“The slowdown in the use of independent contractors suggests small business owners may look to invest more in full-time hires in the year ahead,” said Alter. “More full-time hires means more stability and more dollars available to spend on Main Street, hopefully propelling our economy forward.”

While the optimism figures represented a positive, SurePayroll’s hiring and paycheck size figures are less encouraging. Year over year, hiring nationwide was down 1.7 percent while paycheck sizes had fallen 0.3 percent. The South was the only region where hiring had increased for the year, at 0.7 percent, while paychecks there were up 0.9 percent.

The West showed a hiring decline of 1.5 percent, with paychecks down 1.3 percent. Hiring in the Midwest was down 3.2 percent, but paychecks were positive, up 0.7 percent. In the Northeast, hiring was down 4.0 percent and paychecks were down 2.0 percent.

On a month over month basis nationwide, hiring declined 0.1 percent while paychecks were down 0.2 percent in December.

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