The National Federation of Independent Businesses said their monthly Index of Small Business Optimism gained 1.9 points in February.
The gain was welcome, the trade group said, but the 90.8 mark the index reached in February "remains on par with the 2008 average and below the trough of the 1991-1992 and 2001-02 recessions," said the monthly report.
"The direction of February's change is positive, but not indicative of a surge in confidence among small business owners," the report said.
The NFIB said of the 10 component indexes that make up the Small Business Optimism Index, one fell, one was unchanged and eight improved in February.
In a measure showing frustration with the labor market, the NFIB said many small business owners in the survey indicated they had difficulty finding qualified workers for job openings.
Close to half of small business owners -- 44 percent -- attempted to hire workers in the past three months "and 34 percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill," due to having too few or no qualified applicants, the report said.