Small business owners first crippled by the economic downturn and then further encumbered by a tight lending environment in its aftermath are set to hire more workers, make more capital investments and are reducing their retirement savings targets this year as they set their sights on growth and expansion.

According to American Express OPEN's Small Business Monitor survey released Thursday, 35% of small business owners with less than 100 employees plan to hire new workers this year, the highest level since the fall of 2008.

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