Debt Weighs on A Third of Small Business Owners

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More than a third of small business owners say that their debt burden is either “somewhat” or “very” uncomfortable in the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup small business survey. Of the rest, 62% were comfortable with their debt levels.

Of those who have ever had debt, only 20% say they have more debt than they did a year ago, while 32% say they have less and 47% say debt levels are about equal. Paying back debt is difficult or worse for 49% of business owners, and one in five business owners say they are unable to get the loans they need, while 39% say they do have access to needed credit and 38% say they don’t need credit. Among those who say they did not have enough credit, about 75% said that the lack of credit was hurting their businesses.

The inability of 20% of businesses to get credit is the most interesting point in this survey. Here’s Gallup’s take:

It is unclear whether weak business conditions and more stringent underwriting requirements have rightfully reduced the credit available to many of these small businesses, or whether some of today’s underwriting standards remain too difficult — reflecting the fallout of the financial crisis. Regardless, as long as one in five small businesses that have used credit are under such duress, it will be difficult for the U.S. economy to gain substantial positive economic momentum.

That sounds about right.

The Gallup news release is available here.

Paul Ausick