WASHINGTON — Small businesses have been touted as the key to restoring growth in the struggling United States economy. But only 52 percent of the nation's small firms expect sales to rise this year, according to a recent survey by National Small Business United, a trade group, and Arthur Andersen & Co. Twenty-one percent expect their sales to decrease and another 20 percent expect no gain or loss.
Fifteen percent expect to add employees, 12 percent to cut staff, and 64 percent to hold staffing steady.
The key challenges cited by small businesses include the sluggish overall economy, a tough credit environment, and rising health costs. One-third of those surveyed had seen medical costs increase by more than 25 percent last year.