Small Business Optimism Largely Unchanged in March

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index was virtually unchanged in March, dropping 0.3 points to 92.6. Six of the ten components posted declines on the month, while four posted increases.

Labor market conditions deteriorated slightly in March, as 48 percent of small businesses reported hiring or trying to hire, down from 49 percent in February. Forty-one percent of employers reported few or no qualified applicants for available positions, down 1 point from the previous month. A seasonally adjusted net 9 percent of employers plan to create new jobs, down 1 point from February and 6 points from December.

The percent of owners reporting higher sales in the past three months fell 2 points to a net negative 8 percent. Thirteen percent of small business owners reported weak sales as their top business problem, up 2 points from the previous month.

Capital spending picked up slightly, with 59 percent of businesses reporting capital outlays, up 1 point on the month. The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next 3 to 6 months rose 2 points to 25 percent.

Credit conditions deteriorated slightly, as 5 percent of owners reported that all their borrowing needs were not met, up 1 point from February. Fifty-three percent of respondents explicitly said they did not want a loan, up 1 point on the month. Two percent of owners cited financing as their top business problem, also a 1 point increase from the previous month.

Read the NFIB release.