JPMorgan Chase & Co is raising lending to small businesses by $4 billion this year and hiring more than 300 new bankers to cater to these businesses.

The second largest U.S. bank said it now plans to add about $10 billion in total new lending this year to companies with annual sales of less than $20 million and it will hire about 325 bankers to help with this push.

We've seen from our customers some renewed vigor for credit, said Kevin Watters, chief executive of business banking at Chase, in an interview. Demand has started to pick up.

The improving economy also prompted JPMorgan to increase lending.

Things we're seeing in terms of some stabilization in the economy would tell us this is a very good time to aggressively gain market share in small business lending, Watters said.

Like other banks that received billions of dollars in bank bailout funds last year, JPMorgan has come under pressure from lawmakers to boost lending to help the U.S. economy out of recession.

The second-largest U.S. bank repaid its $25 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds this summer and it has taken pains to show it is making loans and supporting the economy.

We have never stopped lending, said Watters.

This latest move follows other initiatives, including a mortgage modification program for homeowners and a new credit card for business customers.

Separately, JPMorgan lifted on Monday a freeze on salaries for employees earning more than $60,000, according to a memo that a spokesman confirmed. [ID: nN09183206] (Reporting by Elinor Comlay; editing by Andre Grenon)