The National Federation of Independent Businesses said their monthly optimism index "ended the year slightly up from November at 93.9, but below the previous three mid-year readings of more than 94 and 6 points less than the pre-recession average."
The group's capital investment index jumped 9 points in December to 26 percent, and job creation expectations rose to the highest level since February 2006, the trade group said.
Expectations for the economy to improve rose 9 points to reach minus 11 percent.
Along with that, the index rating whether or not current conditions were conducive to expansion gained 1 point to 10 percent.
"While there has been no sign that a real recovery has begun, we can be encouraged that the economy is at least crawling forward and not heading in reverse," NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said.
"Some segments of the economy are showing improvement [manufacturing, construction, professional services] but consumer spending, especially on services [70 percent of consumption], has lagged," he said in a statement.