As predicted, the year has started off well for small businesses, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) - Small-Business Economic Trends report.

Boosting the Optimism Index were two factors: a strengthening labor market, marked by a two-point gain in the net percent of owners who plan to increase employment, and a four-point jump among those reporting job openings.

“This is great news for small businesses,” NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg says. “It points to solid job creation and continued downward pressure on the unemployment rate. Equally important are the data showing that there was no change in the net percent of those firms raising prices (18 percent), indicating no new pressure on prices.”

Overall, the data points to a solid start to 2006, especially for jobs and inventory investment. Capital spending appears solid, profits remain reasonably strong and credit is available to small businesses despite higher interest rates.

To read the full report on how economic trends have changed in the first quarter, visit the NFIB Web site.