Over the past several years, the U.S. economy has improved slowly but steadily, and many small businesses have been able to reap the benefit of that. Unfortunately, while many entrepreneurs may have been left hoping for a breakout year in the time since the recession ended, data suggests that it's not going to happen in 2016.

While this is not going to be applicable to every small business in every part of the country, experts seem to think that 2016 will be another year of slower growth, according to a report from the Associated Press. Fortunately (to some extent), polling data also shows that the vast majority of small business owners nationwide were expecting this kind of prediction and have been planning accordingly for some time now.

Small business owners can expect growth in 2016, just not much of it.Small business owners can expect growth in 2016, just not much of it.

What's likely to happen?
There are many reasons why experts don't think there will be a big rebound for the broader economy, let alone small businesses, over the coming year, the report said. Perhaps the biggest of these is stagnant wage growth; while the economy is improving, consumers' take-home pay isn't going with it, and that's likely to lead to far more muted spending growth than many might have hoped for. In addition, the difficulties in the gas and oil industries – while good for consumers who enjoy paying $2 per gallon – can have a depressive effect on economic growth as well.

"I believe that we are in a period of unrest on all fronts and that the economy in the U.S. will begin to reflect that in 2016," David Ashen, co-owner of Dash Design, a small interior design firm operating in New York City and Miami, told the news organization.

That's not to say that consumer spending shouldn't grow, because the most recent data suggests a continued slow, steady rise, the report said. In addition, consumers are also trying to be a little more conscientious about putting their money into savings accounts as well, which obviously means they aren't spending it.

Where will small businesses struggle most?
In particular, it seems that small businesses in coastal states are likely to have a better time than those in the Midwest over the course of the year, the report said. For the former, their economies are more diversified and many different types of business can flourish there. In the case of the latter, though, much of the local economy for many different areas is often going to be tied up in singular fields, such as oil, mining, agriculture, and so on. Those industries are expected to struggle more than most others this year, and problems could linger for small businesses dependent upon both consumer and business spending as a result.

With all this in mind, small business owners may want to think about the benefits of creating a detailed financial plan that can help them succeed over the course of the year. Working with a community bank to determine a few important steps along the way could be extremely beneficial in the long run.