Iowa small and medium-sized employers are feeling less optimistic than they were six months ago, according to a survey released yesterday.

Hamilton Group Inc.'s Hamilton Hiring Survey, conducted in November, found that 50 percent of respondents were either somewhat or very optimistic about their industry's job growth in the first half of 2014. That was down 18 percentage points from their optimism level about the second half of 2013.

"I think the end result is really that (businesses) are focused on some of the national and federal government issues," said Tom Hamilton, president of the Hamilton Group. "They seem to be very pleased with the way our state is progressing from the standpoint of business climate and opportunities. I think the optimism is dampened somewhat by the things going on at the federal level."

The overall Hamilton Hiring Index for the first half of 2014 is at 67, a seven-point decrease from the mid-2013 index result of 74, but a 16 point increase from a year ago.

A reading of 50 is considered neutral, so despite the decrease from the mid-2013 reading, employers are still optimistic overall, Hamilton said.

A total of 41 respondents said they expect to increase total employment over the next six months. That's down from 46 percent in the third quarter of 2013.

Hamilton Group surveys more than 5,000 small and medium-sized employers for the survey to gauge optimism for industry growth in the coming six months.

A national survey released today is more optimistic.It shows that 55 percent of hiring managers and recruiters anticipate hiring more professionals in the first half of 2014 than in the second half of 2013.

That's up three percentage points from the outlook six months ago and nine percentage points from the same period a year ago in the semiannual Dice Holdings Inc. survey

In the Midwest, though, only 48 percent of respondents expect to hire more professionals in the first half of 2014. The Dice numbers come from a survey of more than 1,000 hiring professionals nationwide conducted Nov. 12-15.