The latest quarterly survey of the National Association of Business Economics finds optimism around sales and hiring for the road ahead. Nearly half of the 72 NABE members polled work for private businesses with 100 or fewer employees.

“Buffeted by a very rough winter, sales grew at fewer firms during the first quarter; however, survey participants continue to report strong expectations for increased growth over the course of 2014,” said NABE President Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation.

Looking at the big picture, eight in ten survey respondents say they think the economy will grow by at least 2% over the next year. And though sales growth reported in the April survey was weaker than the previous quarter, 53% of respondents said sales today are increasing.

In line with this optimistic view, expectations around hiring also improved. Forty-three percent of survey respondents say their firms have plans to hire over the next six months.

“As before, a little more than one-fourth of respondents’ firms added employees last quarter, and one-quarter of the firms report shortages of skilled labor. The percentage of survey panelists who expect their firms to add workers or increase overall capital spending increased strongly from that reported in the January survey,” said Kleinhenz.

The NABE survey includes the responses of members from four sectors: Goods-producing; transportation, utilities, information and communications (TUIC); finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE); and services. The survey was conducted between March 18 and April 1, 2014.

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