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American Express survey finds some small business owners believe U.S. still in recession

New York City -- Research results released Tuesday by American Express found that more than a third (38%) of small business owners believe that the U.S. is still in the throes of a recession.

According to the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, a semi-annual survey in its 10th year, concerns about the economy are weighing heavily on entrepreneurs. Twenty-seven percent say they do not plan to grow in the next six months (up from 21% in the spring) and just 77% describe themselves as glass-half-full optimists (down from 85% a year ago).

Despite those concerns, however, there are some positive signs. The survey showed that cash flow is more under control, as 55% expressed cash-flow concerns, down from 66% in the spring. On the capex side, 48% plan investments, up from 44% in the spring.

On the hiring front, 31% say they will hire over the next six months, down slightly from the spring (35%), but at levels still higher than the four surveys spanning spring 2009 to fall 2010.

Social media remains an emphasis. Of the businesses that identified themselves as having grown despite the economy, 58% said they will use social media to attract new customers. Among the entrepreneurs using social media, Facebook is the most popular way to reach new customers (33%). And 28% of business owners say social media has helped their business survive in a challenging economy.

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