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Economic Pessimism Rises Among San Diego County’s Small Business Owners

San Diego County small business owners are more pessimistic about the economy than they were last year, and are awaiting the outcome of this year's elections to see how they impact major issues, according to a survey released Thursday by Union Bank.

Overall, 68 percent of San Diego small business owners report that the national economy is headed in the wrong direction, a 23-point increase over 2015. Almost two-thirds also believe the state and local economies have worsened, a 20-point climb.

When asked about their own businesses, 87 percent said they believe they are headed in the right direction, the results found.

The annual Union Bank Small Business Economic Survey found similar results in the 2012 election year.

About 40 percent of San Diego small business owners said the business climate has worsened, 31 percent said it has stayed the same and 29 percent said it has improved, the 2016 survey showed.

"The feelings of uncertainty about the national economy reflected in the survey results are somewhat consistent with what we're seeing among small business owners who are encouraged about the future of their businesses and cautiously expanding and increasing staffing," said Union Bank Managing Director Todd Hollander, head of Business Banking.

"Our clients are working smarter to sustain their businesses and many continue to seek capital, but they are closely monitoring interest rates and are concerned about interest rate changes and other government implications during this election year," Hollander said.

Among other results in the survey:

— 45 percent of San Diego County business owners are uncertain about whether they're ready for interest rate changes;

— 73 percent said they will keep capital expenditures the same, 18 percent said they would decrease spending and 9 percent said they would increase spending;

— 44 percent said they are working the same number of hours per week as they did at the same time last year, 42 percent said they were working "somewhat or a lot more" and 14 percent said they were working "somewhat or a lot less";

— on election year issues, 52 percent said the Affordable Care Act would most impact their business, followed by immigration laws,26 percent; equal pay, 12 percent; and foreign trade, 10 percent.

— 58 percent said their health care costs had either somewhat or greatly increased, 31 percent said costs had not changed, and 11 percent said their costs had decreased;

— About three in four said Obamacare had not impacted employment at their companies.

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