Small Business Optimism Held Strong in March

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index decreased 0.6 points in March to 104.7, maintaining the high level of post-election optimism. Three of the ten index components rose, while five declined.

Reported job creation has improved, as 51% of businesses reported hiring or trying to hire. However, 45% reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Sixteen percent of employers surveyed cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their top business problem. A seasonally adjusted net 16% of owners plan to create new jobs, up one point and a strong reading.

Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting better business conditions fell one point to a net 46%. The percent of owners reporting higher sales in the past three months rose three points to 5%. Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes fell eight points to a net 18% of owners. Capital spending increased as 64% of owners reported capital outlays, up two points from February. The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next 3 to 6 months rose three points to 29%, which is the highest reading since the financial crisis.

Credit conditions mostly held steady, as 4% of owners reported that all their borrowing needs were not met, an increase of one point. Only 2% of business owners surveyed reported that financing was their top business problem, unchanged from the past four months.

Read the NFIB report.