Business Barometer: Small businesses are cautiously optimistic in February

February 28, 2019

Small businesses regained some of the confidence lost in December, but are not yet back to fall 2018 levels. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Business Barometer® rose 3 index points to 59.0 this month.

“While they haven’t fully recovered from the sharp drop in confidence at the end of last year, small business owners are feeling cautiously optimistic this month,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice president and chief economist. “Hiring intentions, as well as wage and price plans are trending up as a reflection of that.”

Overall, 42 per cent of owners say their business is in good shape, while 12 per cent say it is in bad shape. Staffing plans improved, with 19 per cent of business owners planning to hire full-time staff and 11 per cent planning to cut back.

An index level between 65 and 70 normally indicates that the economy is growing at its potential. 

Provincial results: Nova Scotia takes the confidence lead

Nova Scotia climbed to the highest confidence level in the country at 66.3, followed by Quebec (64.8). Ontario gained 3.7 index points to 64.1, posting the biggest increase of any province. Alberta gained 2.8 index points to 40.3 but remained the least optimistic province after a drastic fall last month, followed by Newfoundland & Labrador (47.7). New Brunswick saw a major loss of confidence, dropping 7.1 index points to 54.2. Manitoba (52.6), British Columbia (55.4) and Prince Edward Island (60.6) all lost some optimism, while Saskatchewan stayed at 55.2.

Industry results: Natural resources and agriculture remain pessimistic

Businesses operating in the natural resources sector remained the least optimistic with an index of 44.6, followed by agriculture (48.5). Both industries have seen moderate losses of confidence over last month. Firms in personal services experienced the greatest loss of confidence, dropping 6.6 points to 56.8. The information sector was the most optimistic at 61.4. Overall, results were concentrated between the mid-50s and low-60s, indicating general stability for most sectors.

Read the February Business Barometer®

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