Canadian entrepreneurs started the new year with a healthy boost of optimism, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The Business Barometer index jumped three points to 65.7 in January.

“After a lacklustre November and December, small business owners across Canada are starting to feel more optimistic about the future” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president. “While it’s too soon to make any conclusions about 2013, the latest survey results are very encouraging.”

Small business owners in Alberta (70.5) are once again the most optimistic the country, although Newfoundland and Labrador (69.3) and Saskatchewan (66.7) are close behind. Ontario (65.0), Nova Scotia (64.2), Manitoba (63.5), Quebec (62.7), New Brunswick (61.7), and Prince Edward Island (58.3) all experienced increased small business confidence. Only British Columbia (61.6) firms saw a decline in optimism.

“Optimism is generally well-balanced across Canada,” added Mallett. “Overall, there’s a lot of optimism in white-collar industries such as professional services, finance and the information sector, but manufacturing, retail and construction are not far behind.”

Full-time hiring plans have jumped to a post-recession high, with 27 per cent of businesses expecting to hire additional staff in the next few months. Similarly, 44 per cent of business owners described their state of business to be in “good” shape – the best score of in the past four years.

Measured on a scale of 0 and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their businesses’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. According to past results, index levels normally range between 65 and 70 when the economy is growing at its potential. The January 2013 findings are based on 1,005 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.1 per cent 19 times in 20.