Minnesota received filings for 58,260 new businesses in 2013, the third-highest annual total in history and a 4 percent decline from last year, the secretary of state's office reported Tuesday.

"This is a positive signal of Minnesota's continued economic growth and employment opportunities," Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. "Our state has a healthy environment for business and we hope to see this growth continue in 2014."

Minnesota's 2013 business filings represent a 17.5 percent increase from 10 years ago, Ritchie's office said.

Business filings are tricky as an economic indicator. When 63,338 entrepreneurs started businesses in Minnesota in 2009, it was the highest total ever. It was also the bottom of the recession.

But sentiment among company leaders is improving in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, according to recent data released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Already-established manufacturers and construction firms that spoke to the Fed in December most often said they expect some growth in sales and hiring in 2014. Overall, 75 percent of the 321 business leaders surveyed in the Fed's six-state region were optimistic about their local economy, a clear improvement over a year ago, when only about 55 percent were optimistic.

Optimism for business leaders is at a seven-year high from Montana to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Fed reported. Four in five business leaders from non-metro Minnesota profess an optimistic outlook. Businesses are cheerier to the west in the Dakotas and Montana, and generally more pessimistic to the east in northern Wisconsin.