Small Businesses Downbeat on the Economy

Inflation concerns and hiring challenges weigh on small business sentiment

Small business owners' expectations for better business conditions fell to a record low, according to a survey from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Owners expecting better conditions in the next six months dropped as 32% cited inflation as their top business problem, the highest reading since the fourth quarter of 1980.

The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index was unchanged in April, holding at 93.2, the fourth straight month below the 48-year average of 98. Small business owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months decreased one point to a net negative 50%, the lowest level recorded in the survey’s 48-year history.

NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement, “small business owners are struggling to deal with inflation pressures. The labor supply is not responding strongly to small business’ high wage offers and the impact of inflation has significantly disrupted business operations.”

The survey also found 47% of owners reported job openings that could not be filled. Of those hiring or trying to hire, 93% of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.

"Small businesses can often be seen as the canary in the coal mine' for the overall health of the U.S. economy, and they are dealing with a shortage of workers, rising labor costs, and overall inflation at the same time", said Caleb Silver, editor-in-chief of Investopedia. "If the economy continues to slow, expect medium and large enterprises to feel this triad of economic woes even more than small businesses."

The percentage of owners raising average selling prices decreased to 70%, two points below last month’s reading.

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.