Small-Business Owner Roller Coaster Continues

After March’s disappointing drop in small-business confidence, April’s Small Business Optimism index of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), rose 2.6 points to 92.1, just above the recovery average of 90.7. Yet pessimism abounds within the sector, as still far more of those surveyed expect business conditions to be worse in six months than those who think they will be better. Most cite taxes. regulations and weak sales as their chief challenges going forward.
    • Capital Outlays. The frequency of reported capital outlays over the past six months fell 1 point to 56 percent, after rising steadily, albeit by small increments, since January. The frequency of expenditures being made remain at the high end of recession-type readings, consistent with the lack of interest in expansion and the dim outlook for business conditions. The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next three to six months fell 2 points, with a reported 23 percent planning to make future expenditures.


  • Good Time to Expand. Only four percent of those surveyed characterized the current period as a good time to expand, unchanged from last month and historically a very weak number. Of those who said it was not a good time to expand, 62 percent cited “economic conditions” and 24 percent cited “the political climate.” The net percent of owners expecting better business conditions in six months was a net negative 15 percent, an increase of 13 points over April.


    • The pace of inventory reduction continued, with a net negative six percent of all owners reporting growth in inventories. For all firms, a net negative 1 percent (unchanged) reported stocks too low, historically a good level of satisfaction with inventory stocks.


  • Plans to increase inventories gained 5 points but rose only to a net zero percent of all firms.

    • Inflation. Twenty percent of surveyed NFIB owners reported price increases (up 2 points) and 15 percent reported reducing their average selling prices in the past three months (down 2 points). The net percent of owners raising selling prices was three percent, up 4 points. Twenty-one (21) percent of owners plan to raise average prices in the next few months, and three percent plan reductions, both unchanged from March’s report.


  • The report is based on the responses of 1,873 randomly sampled small businesses in NFIB’s membership, surveyed throughout the month of April. NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends is a monthly survey of small-business owners’ plans and opinions. The National Federation of Independent Business is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing U.S. small business.


*All net percentages seasonally adjusted unless otherwise noted.




  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events