The small business optimism index increased only slightly by 0.4 points in December, reports Calculated Risk's Bill McBride. The index now stands at 95.2, a significant drop from the 42-year average of 98.

Job creation also slowed during the month, with average employment gain per firm falling to -0.07, another drop from November's average of .01. While 55% of small business firms reported hiring or trying to hire, 48% claimed that there were few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. In a historically high reading, 28% of owners reported job openings that they were unable to fill in the current period, indicating that there was no significant change in the unemployment rate. Fifteen percent of firms plan to create new jobs, up 4 points. 

The National Federation of Independent Business states that the future job creation is possibly driven by the surge in expected real estate gains for 2016. 

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