Small business owners felt more optimistic in July by John Kell @FortuneMagazine August 12, 2014, 8:29 AM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons A key reading found small business owners expressed increased optimism in July and intend to ramp up hiring the new few months, though the survey sows no concrete evidence that economic activity is picking up early in the third quarter. The NFIB small business optimism index climbed 0.7 points in July to 95.7, slightly under the 95.8 reading projected by observers polled by Bloomberg. It was the second-highest monthly reading so far in 2014, only lagging May’s performance. The small business owners surveyed expect to increase hiring in the next three months and also boost compensation, while also expressing optimism about sales expectations the next few months. But they also expect general business conditions to worsen six months from now, and have noted weak sales and earnings results the past three months. “Looking at the NFIB survey results for July, there is no evidence that economic activity is picking up in early Q3,” the report said. Only job creation plans and job openings have reached growth levels from a historical perspective, according to the authors of the National Federation of Independent Business survey. The somewhat ho-hum survey comes after the U.S. economy reportedly expanded more than expected in the second quarter, as the nation rebounded from a severe winter as a result of broad growth from many pockets of the economy.