The overwhelming majority of small-business owners (84%) are confident in the future of their business, according to a new study produced by the National Small Business Association and ZipRecruiter. More than half (53%) of the 1,633 small-business owners surveyed said that their revenue has gone up. That's the first time since 1997 that the majority of companies reported an increase. The results are largely encouraging, though owners weren't without worry.

"In the past two years, the number of small-business owners who say they expect to see an economic expansion in the next year has more than doubled," said NSBA President Todd McCracken in a press release. "Unfortunately, the ever-rising cost of healthcare remains the biggest challenge small businesses face."

Two men in front of a computer in a workshop.

Small-business owners are optimistic. Image source:Getty Images.

The state of small-business jobs

Jobs and hiring practices were a major focus of the report. One of the key findings -- that automation does not necessarily mean fewer jobs -- differs from what's expected to happen at many large companies

The survey showed that only 9% of the small-business owners who plan to implement some type of automation believe that doing so will allow them to employ fewer people. Almost 1 in 4 (24%) said automation will cause them to need more workers and the majority (67%) said it will not impact their employee count either way. 

In addition, small-business owners believe that the gig economy will not impact how many full-time employees they hire. While 37% have added part-time employees, 70% of them were new hires, and only 17% were current full-time employees who were reduced to part-time. 

The survey also had some good news for employees. Over half (58%) of small-business owners said they raised wages in 2017 and 64% said they expect to in 2018. Nearly a third of those surveyed (32%) noted that they were having trouble finding qualified applicants due to the tight labor department.

"We tend to think of corporate America when we think of career ladders, however small businesses have ample opportunities for career growth," said ZipRecruiter Chief Economist Cathy Barrera in the press release. "66% of all small businesses offer opportunities for promotion, and at companies with more than five employees, that number rises to 85%."

What does this mean?

Strong small businesses are good for the economy and good for workers. They give people options and create opportunities that otherwise may not exist.

In order to continue this strong market for small business, it's important that the government address healthcare. That was named by 32% of those surveyed as their biggest challenge to their future growth and survival. That was tied with economic uncertainty and followed by lack of qualified workers at 26%.

Still, despite those concerns, small business is thriving and confidence among owners is high.

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