A new survey of small business owners finds optimism is waning.

Laurie Ehlbeck, the state Director of the Jersey Chapter of the National Federation for Independent Business, says the just-completed survey shows "that after several months of very small growth, that small business optimism is actually dropping for the second consecutive month…Members indicated the uncertainty in the economy and the gridlock in D.C. right now is affecting their ability to make business decisions at all."

She says, "The uncertainty in tax rates and regulatory issues were also one of the top things that they mentioned - and the fact that there hasn't really been any change in the unemployment rate…Also, they're looking at the year coming up of costs of health insurance going up 20 percent or more, so it's hard to make improvements to your business or hire people when you know you're going to have a huge cost like that coming up."

Ehlbeck adds, "They also noted in the survey there's been very weak consumer spending, which has resulted in poorer sales, obviously, so they're very reluctant at this point to make any capital improvements to their business, or to hire, or to expand in any way…At this point, many of them now are in a wait and see pattern and are reluctant to make any changes."

She also points out the survey found "more owners indicated that they expect business conditions will be worse in 6 months, and that real sales volumes will be lower."