Small Business Confidence Slipping

Last week, we mentioned some of the negative impacts of the government shutdown on small business owners and entrepreneurs. The most recent Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Businesses says that while the September figures might be too early to really measure the full impact of the shutdown, the economic outlook is definitely depressed. 

“The change in this month’s Index was little more than ‘statistical noise,’ but the drop in outlook for future economic conditions is evidence that many owners are keeping an eye on Washington,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Prospects for politicians and policymakers ‘getting it right’ are low, and job creators are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads thinking, ‘This is certainly not the way to run the largest enterprise in the world.’ Between botched healthcare implementation and one manufactured crisis after another, consumers and small-business owners are likely to remain pessimistic, accepting the notion that growth is going to be sub-par and that their government is likely to continue in dysfunctional mode for months to come.” 

Key findings from the September indicators include: 

  • Job creation was down in September. NFIB owners reduced employment by an average of 0.1 workers per firm in September after August’s slight gain (0.08 workers added on average) following three months of negative numbers. 
  • Credit continues to be a non-issue for small employers, 6 percent of whom say that all their credit needs were not met in September, up 1 point from August. Twenty-eight (28) percent of owners surveyed reported all credit needs met, and 53 percent explicitly said they did not want a loan (64 percent including those who did not answer the question, presumably uninterested in borrowing).  
  • In September, only 8 percent characterized the current period as a good time to expand (up 2 points). The net percent of owners expecting better business conditions in six months was a net negative 10 percent, 8 points worse than August’s reading. 
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