The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index decreased 0.6 points in February to 105.3, maintaining the high level of post-election optimism. Three of the ten index components rose, while six declined. All of the index components have held near record highs since the remarkable increases after the election.
Reported job creation has improved, as 52% of businesses reported hiring or trying to hire. However, 44% reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Seventeen percent of employers surveyed cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their top business problem. A seasonally adjusted net 15% of owners plan to create new jobs, down three points but still a strong reading.
Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting better business conditions fell one point to a net 47%. The percent of owners reporting higher sales in the past three months rose four points to 2%, the first positive reading since early 2015. Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes fell three points to a net 26% of owners. Capital spending increased as 62% of owners reported capital outlays, up three points from January. The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next 3 to 6 months fell one point to 26%.
Credit conditions mostly held steady, as 3% of owners reported that all their borrowing needs were not met, a decrease of one point. Only 2% of business owners surveyed reported that financing was their top business problem, unchanged from the past three months.
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