* NFIB optimism index falls to 91.4 in June
* Job openings rise 195,000 in May
By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON, July 10 Small U.S. businesses'
confidence in the economy's future declined in June by the most
in two years, increasing the threat that an economic slowdown
could stretch into the second half of the year.
The National Federation of Independent Business said on
Tuesday its Small Business Optimism Index dropped 3 points last
month to 91.4.
Eight of the index's 10 components fell, with businesses
downbeat on sales, profits and hiring.
American companies slammed the brakes on hiring in the
second quarter, a warning sign the recovery from the 2007-2009
recession is faltering.
Many economists think companies are holding back due to
fears of Europe's debt crisis as well as U.S. government plans
for severe belt tightening in 2013. The NFIB data signals
confidence in the recovery continues to erode.
"It appears that the labor market softness is expected to
persist for some time still," said Michael Dolega, an economist
at TD Economics in Toronto.
A separate report from the Labor Department offered more
hopeful signs for the economy.
Job openings in May increased 195,000, the most in five
months, suggesting business is brisk enough to demand more
labor, even if companies are hesitant to pull the trigger and
A spate of weak data for everything from hiring and
manufacturing to retail sales has pointed to sluggish
second-quarter economic growth.
Most economists still expect growth will pick up again in
the second half of the year, despite the possibilities that
Europe's debt crisis could worsen or that the U.S. government
might go forward with a massive belt-tightening plan.
The NFIB survey for June suggests small businesses smell
trouble ahead. The drop in the index was the largest one-month
fall since June 2010.
"If not a recession reading, it is surely an indication of
slow growth," NFIB economist William Dunkelberg said.