November Small Business Optimism Sinks

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The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Tuesday morning reported that its small business optimism index for November dropped 1.3 points from 96.1 in October to come in at 94.8. The November reading remains below the index’s 42-year average of 98.

The four “hard” measures of the index posted mixed results last month. The job creation component remained unchanged at 11%, the job openings component also remained unchanged at 27%, capital spending plans slipped a point to 25% and inventory investment plans remained unchanged at zero.

Some 20% of small business owners plan to raise employees’ pay in the next several months. That’s up three points compared with October on a seasonally adjusted basis.

In its commentary on the report, the NFIB noted:

The current NFIB survey reads are generally the best in this expansion, although historically below average in the 42 year history of expansions. … Overall, the outlook remains about the same, slow 2 percent-ish growth, payroll employment growth averaging around 200,000 a month, 100,000 in the Household Survey (enough to keep the unemployment rate around 5 percent), not much pressure on prices from Main Street. Just hoping for a Happy New Year to show up.

The NFIB reports that 27% of business owners currently have positions open that they are unable to fill (unchanged from October) and that 47% said there were few or no qualified applicants for the open positions, down one point from the prior month’s total.

Business owners said their single most important problem is government regulations and red tape (21%), taxes (20%) or quality of labor (15%). The least important problems are inflation (1%) and financing and interest rates (2%).