Small business owners reported an increase in hiring, but a decrease in optimism last month, according to a new survey by the National Federation of Independent Business.

The NFIB Small-Business Optimism Index ended its upward trend in March, falling 2.6 points to 91.9—consistent with recession-level readings. The decline, which comes after several consecutive months of slow but steady growth, was driven by weaker expectations for real sales gains and business conditions, along with a marked deterioration in profit trends. Hiring and future plans to hire built on February’s gain and remain the bright spot in an otherwise discouraging report.

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