Small business owners, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of San Diego County, and general contractors are more confident in their outlook this year than two years ago, according to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The conclusions are part of the chamber's 2012 Small Business Outlook, released last week, in which businesses in various sectors around the region were surveyed by Competitive Edge Research. The report's index ranges from 200, in which all business owners are fully confident in every metric, to minus 200, in which they are negative about everything.
Confidence among business owners in Chula Vista, National City and southern San Diego was at 45.6 on the index, compared to 17 in a similar report in 2010. The next highest area was the East County, at 30.7.
The chamber reported that general contractors across the county have a confidence level of 40.8, compared to -8.3 (negative) two years ago.
"It's important to keep our finger on the pulse of small businesses because they play a crucial role in our overall regional economy," said Ruben Barrales, the chamber's president and CEO.
"A positive shift in sentiment is encouraging and we want to continue supporting San Diego's small businesses to help them grow and thrive."
A major drop was seen in the number of firms offering health care to their workers. In 2010, 68 percent of small businesses offered coverage to their employees, while this year the figure was 28 percent.
According to the report, business owners said health coverage was too expensive, or their employees had made other arrangements. Companies that offered health care had a confidence index level of 40.1, while those not offering coverage were at 21.6.
The study was a compilation of interviews of executives at 501 businesses in San Diego County with 50 or fewer employees on April 16 and 17. They were questioned about revenue, hiring, spending on business development and use of credit, among other topics.
San Diego County Economic Indicators
The University of San Diego Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate's Index of Leading Economic Indicators for June in San Diego County rose by 0.1 percent from the previous month, the school announced Wednesday.
That compares to climbs of 0.7 percent in May and 0.6 percent in April.
The index stood at 121.4 in June after eight straight months of increases. It is at its highest level since March 2008.
A sharp increase in the number of residential building permits issued in June, along with moderate climbs in consumer confidence and help-wanted advertising, barely offset declines in employment, local stock prices and the outlook for the national economy, according to USD Professor Alan Gin.
He said that despite a dip in the job market last month, the region has added 24,000 jobs over the last year.
"Barring an international event—Europe, China, the Middle East—that tips the national economy into a double dip recession, that job growth in expected to last the rest of the year and into at least the first half of 2013," Gin said.
The number of building permits issued in the first half of 2012 was up 4 percent over the first six months of last year, he said.
The aggregate figure obscures a wide variation in permits handed out for single-family homes, compared to apartments and condominiums. The number of permits issued for houses from January to June of this year was 23 percent lower than last year, while the figure for multi-family housing jumped 26 percent, according to Gin.
He said the amount of help wanted advertising climbed for the 18th month in a row and is now at its highest level since September 2008.
—City News Service