Many small business owners aren't hiring or expanding because the outlook for the economy, or their own companies, is uncertain.
— Employment at small and medium-sized businesses rose by 116,000 in April, after rising 181,000 in March, according to payroll company ADP, which issues a monthly report on employment at companies in the private sector.
—The U.S. economy, as measured by gross domestic product, grew at an annual rate of just 2.2 percent from January through March. That's down from the moderate 3 percent growth during the last three months of 2011.
—The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits remains stuck near a three-month high.
—Consumers are also cautious. Their spending rose 0.3 percent in March, a slower pace than 0.9 percent in February. That matters because many small businesses either sell directly to consumers or their customers are companies that serve the public.