Confidence Among Small-Business Owners Slips in September

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By Elvina Nawaguna

WASHINGTON -- U.S. small business optimism fell in September as more owners said they expected a slowdown in profits and sales, tightening credit conditions and a harder time filling job openings, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business said its Small Business Optimism Index fell 0.8 point to 95.3. The index is now 5 points below where it was before the start of the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession.

Six of the index's 10 components fell in the survey of 608 randomly selected small business owners.

Still, more business owners said they believed it was a good time to expand their firms and expected better conditions in six months.

Owners added an average of 0.24 workers per firm last month on a seasonally adjusted basis, an improvement from August's average of 0.02 workers.

Half of the owners said they had hired or tried to hire in the last three months, although 42 percent said they had a hard time finding qualified candidates.

The survey suggests weaker job creation as those surveyed said they planned to hire fewer workers and spend less on capital investments.

"Overall, no progress, still stuck in a rut that has been difficult to escape with so little progress on the issues important to small business owners," NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg said, referring to the survey results.

7 Best Things to Buy in October
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Confidence Among Small-Business Owners Slips in September

Sure, plenty of Halloween costumes are at their most expensive now, but you can still find affordable options if you know where to look. "Shop last year's inventory to get the lowest prices. Most stores have a clearly marked clearance section in store and online," notes Howard Shaffer, vice president of, on Kiplinger. "You can also save 30 to 40 percent off this year's costumes if you wait to shop a day or two before Halloween. The selection will be gone, but the deals will be there. And, you can always shop online. Coupon codes will allow you to save even more on sale items and stack your savings."

"There are a lot of great deals on camping equipment in October," Shaffer says. "It's the end of camping season, and clearance sales are offering 60 to 70 percent off tents, summer hiking gear and fishing gear." It figures that camping essentials are cheaper just when you've wrapped up your outdoor shenanigans. That's often the nature of retail, though, and you can use it to your advantage. If your current camping supplies are looking a little rough, don't wait until the peak buying season to buy. Instead, purchase discounted goods now and put them in storage for next year.

Denim continues to be a hot buy this month, especially now that the back to school flurry of sales has died down and retailers are eager to keep sales up between now and the holidays. Denim is typically discounted by stores as a "get you in the door" maneuver in hopes that you'll stick around and buy more stuff. In addition to finding sales in stores, look for online promotions.

As car dealerships anticipate the new year, many are eager to sell both current and earlier models. "The clock is ticking on 2014, and dealers want to get rid of their new summer inventory," reports Apartment Therapy. "Now that it's October, the end of the year is in sight, and they are starting feeling the pressure." If you can, wait to the end of the month -- or the end of a promotion -- to take advantage of car salesmen who are especially eager to make that sale.

There are several jewelry buying lulls in the year. One of those is in early fall while everyone's preoccupied with Halloween and back-to-school shopping, just before the major holiday push.

New home appliances are released during the fall, which has retailers eager to move the old stuff off the showroom floor. Promotional sales are common, and you have more legroom to negotiate.

Gardening and outdoor necessities are on sale for the same reason camping gear is discounted: they're out of season. Head to any retailer that sells grills, plants, gardening supplies, lawn equipment, patio furniture and the like, and you're likely to find sweet deals.
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