The National Small Business Association and ZipRecruiter has released the NSBA 2017 Year-End Economic Report, which shows decade highs in small business outlook.

For the first time since 1997, the majority of small firms—53%—reported increases in revenues, and the overwhelming majority—84%—are confident in the future of their business.

The report echoes the results of the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index Survey, which found small business owners in the U.S. are the most optimistic they've been in 11 years about their prospects for 2018.

"In the past two years, the number of small-business owners who say they expect to see an economic expansion in the next year has more than doubled," says NSBA President Todd McCracken.

"Unfortunately, the ever-rising cost of healthcare remains the biggest challenge small businesses face."

Hiring to Continue Despite More Automation

Featured in the report is a section on workforce and hiring, which zeroes in on hiring practices, wages, and automation issues, as well as recruitment and retention trends.

Although 37% of small business owners have increased part-time employees in the past five years, the majority were new part-time employees, whereas just 17% reduced current full-time employees to part-time.

And while one-third of small businesses expect to implement some kind of automation in the next year, of those, only 9% say it will result in fewer employees. In fact, many more (24%) say it will result in needing more employees.

"We tend to think of corporate America when we think of career ladders, however small businesses have ample opportunities for career growth," says Cathy Barrera, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.

"Sixty-six percent of all small businesses offer opportunities for promotion, and at companies with more than five employees, that number rises to 85%."

There were few surprises when it comes to policy, particularly the fact that "end the partisan gridlock and work together" is the number one thing small businesses want policymakers to do.