U.S. Markets closed

UK small business confidence jumps in Q3, hiring prospects brighten

LONDON (Reuters) - Confidence among small businesses in Britain jumped in the third quarter of this year and companies turned more optimistic about hiring staff, a survey showed on Monday.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), representing about 200,000 small firms in Britain, said its quarterly confidence index increased to 33.5, more than double its level in the April-June period this year.

The findings beat the previous high of 18 recorded in the first quarter of 2010, when the survey began.

The data add to signs of a quickening recovery in Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron said the survey was an "encouraging sign that the economy is turning the corner."

The report showed firms in most regions and sectors reported an improved outlook, particularly in services. The prospects for investment and hiring were brighter.

"For the first time since the report began, more firms are looking to take on staff than reduce their workforce, and spare capacity has fallen back, meaning that more firms feel confident to grow," it said.

The Bank of England has made the labour market a linchpin of its new plan to provide guidance on future interest rate levels, saying it will start to consider raising rates once unemployment falls to 7 percent. Last week, the official unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent.

(Reporting by Luisa Porritt; editing by William Schomberg/Ruth Pitchford)