A "help wanted" sign is seen in the window of a laundromat.
 A "help wanted" sign is seen in the window of a laundromat. - 
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The National Federation of Independent Business’ Optimism Index was up modestly in August 2014 to 96.1, the second-highest reading since the recession began in late 2007. (The index peaked post-recession in May 2014 at 96.6.)

Harold Jackson is executive chairman of Buffalo Supply, a medical supply company in Lafayette, Colorado, outside Denver, with approximately 20 employees.

“I’m cautiously optimistic [about the economy]," Jackson said. “We’re not going to have the kind of growth that we had seven years ago, but it’s going to be a slow, plodding process.” Jackson works with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and he says other business owners he knows generally feel the same way.

Jackson hired several new workers earlier this year. But now — also consistent with the NFIB survey — he is holding tight on more hiring, to see if business gets better. Overall, small-business owners’ job creation plans fell slightly in the August survey.

Economist and entrepreneurship expert Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution says geopolitical developments may dampen small-business confidence and hiring further in coming months.

“The headlines are scary — and you don’t have to read The New York Times to realize that the world’s looking a lot more like 1914 than 2014,” said Litan. “I think it is somewhat surprising and perplexing that the economy continues to chug along. But then, consumers, like businesses, may be just discounting it, and saying, ‘Well, these are problems in faraway places. They don’t affect us.’”

Follow Mitchell Hartman at @entrepreneurguy