Rising just one tenth of one percent in January, the Small-Business Optimism Index settled at 93.9, registering just a slight increase from December, according to a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) report released today.

While January's increase marks five consecutive months of improvement, last year's readings for January and February were actually higher than last month. Historically, optimism remains at recession levels. While owners appeared less pessimistic about the outlook for business conditions and real sales growth, that optimism did not materialize in hiring or increased inventories plans, the NFIB reported.

"The most positive statement that can be made about January's reading is that the Index did not go down," said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for the NFIB. "A change of 0.1 points is essentially no change and it is hardly indicative of a surge in economic activity."

The Index remains below 94.1, its level a year ago.

"That means that no progress was made in 2011," Dunkelberg said. "Congress has failed to pass a budget for over 1,000 days, and without discipline on spending or any budgetary priorities, there is no path to fiscal sanity in Washington."