The remarkable surge in SMB optimism that began in November of last year was sustained in March, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Economic Trends Report, released April 11th.
“Small business owners remain optimistic about the future of the economy and the direction of consumer confidence,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “We are encouraged by signs that optimism is translating into economic activity, such as capital investment and job creation.”
The Index slipped 0.6 points in March to 104.7, still a very strong reading. Actual earnings, capital expenditure plans, and job-creation plans posted gains in March. Sales expectations, which have been flying high for months, dropped by 8 points, a sign that the Optimism Index could be moderating after a strong run.
“By historical standards, this is an excellent performance, with most of the components of the Index holding their gains,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “The increases in capital expenditure plans and actual earnings are signs of a healthier economy, and we expect job creation to pick up in future months.”
Dunkelberg noted that while the overall Index remained strong in March, a significant increase in the Uncertainty Index, a subset of data on how SMB owners see the near-term future, could indicate trouble on the horizon.
“The Uncertainty Index hit 93 in March, which is the second highest reading in the survey’s history,” he said. “More small business owners are having a difficult time anticipating the factors that affect their businesses, especially government policy.”
Most of the March data were collected before Congress failed to pass a bill repealing and replacing Obamacare. A big reason for the soaring optimism of the past five months is the expectation among SMB owners that Obamacare and other burdensome policies will be reversed by Congress and the new administration.
“As we have traveled around Ohio over the course of the past month entrepreneurs have echoed the findings in this recent report,” said NFIB/Ohio Legislative Director Chris Ferruso. “At the state level, we are working to reduce tax complexity and provide stability to Ohio’s unemployment compensation system. We believe these pro-small business policies can serve to boost optimism among our members.”
To view the full report, please visit www.nfib.com/sboi. For more information about NFIB, please visit www.nfib.com.