Small businesses were more optimistic, as hiring activity increased, according to the National Federation of Independent Business' monthly Small Business Optimism index.

The index rose 1.6% in July to 105.2.

"Strong consumer demand is boosting small business optimism," said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. "Small business owners are feeling better about the economy because their customers are feeling better about the economy. This is a good trend that we hope continues."

Seven of the 10 index components improved, with job openings (up 5); job creation plans (up 4); and sales expectations (up 5) the biggest gainers.

"Sixty percent of small business owners reported hiring or trying to hire in July," said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. "Within that group, 87 percent said they had a tough time finding qualified workers. The labor market is getting very tight, and the problem is most severe in the construction and manufacturing sectors."

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