By Rieva Lesonsky

If you’re a startup entrepreneur feeling confident about your business outlook for the coming year, apparently you’ve got plenty of company. The most recent Kauffman/LegalZoom Startup Confidence Index reports that new business owners’ optimism levels are the highest they have been since the first Startup Confidence Index study was done in early 2012.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that business owners aged 18 to 30 were the most optimistic, with 93 percent either somewhat or very confident in their companies’ prospects for the next 12 months. However, the growth in confidence was actually driven by the 31-40 and 60-plus age groups, with 91 percent and 76 percent, respectively, saying they’re either somewhat or very confident.

Entrepreneurs in the study also expressed strong faith in the economy, with 74 percent predicting the economy will improve or stay the same over the next 12 months, a jump of 10 percent over the first-quarter 2013 survey.

The percentage of startup business owners who expect steady or increased consumer demand in the next 12 months also hit its highest number since inception of the index, jumping from 71 percent in first-quarter 2013 to 83 percent in the second quarter. Startup owners ages 18 to 30 were the most optimistic about this, with 91 percent believing consumer demand will stay steady or increase.

Surprisingly, the respondents’ optimism even carried over into plans to hire. Although the businesses in the study were very small, with 87 percent having just one to four employees (including the owner), more than one-third (37 percent) plan to hire employees in the next 12 months, and 69.5 percent anticipate having six or more employees within the next five years.

“In past surveys, a jump in optimism over the economy did not always correlate with increased plans to hire,” said John Suh, CEO of LegalZoom, in announcing the survey results. “In this survey, conviction about the future seems to translate into a higher intention to hire, signaling a promising year for job growth.” That’s exciting news since many recent polls show entrepreneurs who have been in business for a while are still reluctant about hiring.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the government shutdown’s effect on the economy and consumer confidence could have a dulling effect on startup business owners’ optimism and their hiring plans. But I’m guessing that while a prolonged stalemate might dim their prospects a bit, they won’t let it quench their enthusiasm. After all, being optimistic is just the nature of entrepreneurs.

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