Small business owners still feel confident about their companies and the future, according to the latest small business index conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife. The 2018 4Q survey topped out at a strong 69.3, just six-tenths of a point down from its all-time high score of 69.9, set in the 2018 3Q index.
According to the chamber and MetLife, the results show small business owners and operators are still upbeat about the overall national and local economy. More than a quarter of small businesses surveyed said they planned to increase investments and hire more staff in the coming year.
“The findings of this quarter’s Index show they are still bullish, which bodes well for our economy as a whole,” said Jessica Moser, senior vice president of MetLife’s Small Business Solutions segment, in a joint press release. “Their level of optimism is a good indicator of future growth.”
However, 67 percent of companies reported greater difficulty in finding qualified workers. (For more on how small businesses are finding it hard to attract skilled workers, read our September story on “What Happens When You Put Up a Now Hiring Sign and No One Applies? The Problem of Full Employment.”)
Manufacturing is having an especially tough time locating suitable applicants.
“There are too many people that lack the skills or credentials they need to compete for 21st century jobs and too many businesses that can’t find the workers they need, when and where they need them,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “A lack of skilled workers is going to hold back economic growth for the entire country.”
(Read our article “The Brave, New World of Manufacturing – It’s Not Your Father’s High School Metal Shop Anymore” for a closer look at how qualifications for factory jobs are far more technical than in years past.)
Elsewhere, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) has issued its own Small Business Optimism Index, which reports similar findings. The most recent NFIB survey, released in October, totaled a healthy 107.4. The NFIB says this score marks a continuation of record high scores dating back two years.
The biggest takeaway from the latest survey, the NFIB said, is that small business owners are optimistic about the overall economy’s direction and business conditions. A large number report strong sales figures. This gives them the confidence to expand, boost capital spending, hire more workers and invest in more inventory.
“For two years, small business owners have expressed record levels of optimism and are proving to be a driving force in this rapidly growing economy,” NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan stated in a release. “The October optimism index further validates that when small businesses get tax relief and are freed from regulatory shackles, they thrive and the whole economy prospers.”
NFIB also credited low inflation and interest rates for the continued lengthy run in small business optimism and the robust economy.
“October’s report sets the stage for solid economic and employment growth in the fourth quarter, while inflation and interest rates remain historically tame. Small businesses are moving the economy forward,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg.
The year 2018 has proven to be a year of profit … and challenge … for small business owners. What does the future hold as the calendar begins to flip? No one knows for sure, but small businesses across the nation are clearly confident the coming 12 months will be good for them and for America. Stay tuned…