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SMALL FIRMS FIND BUSINESS GETTING BETTER

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Business is getting better for small businesses, but many are still struggling, a nationwide survey shows.

The Small Business Service Bureau, a private organization serving more than 35,000 firms, said a poll of its members showed sales up at 33 percent of the companies, compared to 30 percent in 1992.Net profits, meanwhile, increased at 25 percent of the firms, compared to 21 percent last year, while 45 percent reported lower earnings, versus to 52 percent last year.

At the same time, firms posting a loss accounted for 17 percent of those answering the survey, compared 20 percent last year.

"In the midst of a sluggish economic recovery, this is a positive note for small business owners nationwide," said Francis Carroll, the bureau's president.

"Historically, small business owners have been accurate indicators of recessions and subsequent recoveries," he said.

However, only 31 percent of the owners polled thought this year would be better than last year, an increase of just 1 percent over last year, the survey showed.

Only 3 percent of the company owners believed President Clinton is "doing very well" in helping small business, but that was 1 point better than President Bush's rating last year.