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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. small business optimism fell in September as more owners said they expected a slowdown in profits and sales, tightening credit conditions and a harder time filling job openings, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
The National Federation of Independent Business said its Small Business Optimism Index fell 0.8 point to 95.3. The index is now five points below where it was before the start of the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession.
Six of the index's 10 components fell in the survey of 608 randomly-selected small business owners.
Still, more business owners said they believed it was a good time to expand their firms and expected better conditions in six months.
Owners added an average of 0.24 workers per firm last month on a seasonally adjusted basis, an improvement from August's average of 0.02 workers.
Half of the owners said they had hired or tried to hire in the last three months, although 42 percent said they had a hard time finding qualified candidates.
The survey suggests weaker job creation as those surveyed said they planned to hire fewer workers and spend less on capital investments.
"Overall, no progress, still stuck in a rut that has been difficult to escape with so little progress on the issues important to small business owners," NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg said, referring to the survey results.
Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Paul Simao