The National Federation of Independent Business said Tuesday that a survey of owners of small businesses found their optimism index in August fell 0.1 points to 94, sales were down and payroll numbers fell for the fourth consecutive month.
Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times reported, the index measuring the intention to hire over the next three months rose by 7 percentage points to 16 percent in August, the highest level since before the last recession.
"If this reading is not a fluke, it signals a substantial resumption of hiring in the coming months," the NFIB report said.
"Hopefully, the September survey will validate the August readings and reports of actual hiring turn positive," the report said.
The trade group's chief economist, Bill Dunkelberg described the data for August as "rather perplexing," given hiring intentions hit a post-2007 rose while a sales index fell 17 percent, the second-largest drop since 1986, when the survey began.