This column originally ran in the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015:
By KYLE JACKSON
It’s definitely possible that small businesses will start
hiring again in 2015, unless something happens and they don’t.
I’m being serious.
Small-business owners are inherently skittish. You would be,
too, if your life’s savings and your retirement fund depended on the success of
a single furniture store or coffee shop. One minute, things are looking up, but
if someone in the General Assembly starts talking about a tax increase, or the Environmental
Protection Agency threatens to regulate the drainage ditch behind your store,
you’re not going to spend a dime unless you absolutely have to.
So, when small business says it’s kind of hopeful about the
coming year, that’s saying a lot.
Each month, my association, the National Federation of
Independent Business, releases its Small Business Optimism Index. It tracks
whether small-business owners are feeling upbeat or discouraged. Last month,
the index jumped 2 points to 98.1, the highest it’s been since before the Great
Recession. It got as low as 81.0 in spring 2009.
On top of that, job creation plans improved 1 point to a
seasonally adjusted net 11 percent—not great, but a lot better than it’s been
the past few years.
NFIB doesn’t drill down to the state and local levels, but
economists with the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business recently
predicted that statewide employment growth would increase by 2.3 percent in
2015, continuing a trend that began in 2011.
If that’s the case, we’ll be doing better than the country
as a whole. Overall, job growth in the United States is forecast at 1.8
According to the University of Georgia economists, our
biggest job gains will come from the construction industry, professional and
business services and mining and logging.
Granted, we don’t have a lot of mining in the metro, but Atlanta
does have a lot of construction and business and professional services, so that
bodes well for us.
As any small-business owner can tell you, a lot could
For example, there’s a lot of talk at the Statehouse about
raising the state’s minimum wage. Let’s skip the debate over whether hourly
workers deserve more and look at the bottom line: There’s only so much money in
the pot. If the General Assembly tells employers to spend more on labor,
employers are going to have to find the money someplace, probably by robbing
Peter to pay Paul. If wages increase, the number of employees could decrease,
or owners may pull the plug on plans to expand and create jobs.
This is especially true of small businesses, which generally
aren’t making huge profits, if they’re making any profits at all.
There’s also the question of Georgia’s roads and bridges.
Some members of the General Assembly are talking about a tax
increase, or several tax increases, to cover the cost of fixing existing roads
and building new ones. We absolutely need better roads, but lawmakers must be
careful not to place too much of the burden on the backs of small business. If
employers have to pay higher taxes, they’ll have less money for wages and
hiring additional workers.
So, will small businesses be hiring in 2015? Definitely,
Kyle Jackson is
Georgia director of the National Federation of Independent Business. He lives
in Atlanta and can be reached at [email protected]