Colorado Small Business Index slips

A monthly measure of economic conditions for small businesses in Colorado has slipped, although job growth has accelerated and financing costs remain low.

The Vectra Bank Colorado Small Business Index (SBI) fell to 114.2 in November, down four-tenths from a revised 114.6 in October.

With losses in six out of the last eight months, the SBI has retreated more than seven points since March, when the index stood at 121.7. At this time last year, though, the index stood at 105.6.

The index measures economic conditions from the perspective of small business owners and managers. Lower numbers are associated with generally less favorable conditions.

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, the most heavily weighted of 14 components of the SBI, retreated two-tenths of a point to 8.1 in October, the month upon which the November SBI was based. A lower jobless rate actually pushes up the index because it suggest less access to labor for small businesses, which typically encounter difficulty competing against larger firms to recruit and retain employees.

At the same time, though, the pace of job growth accelerated with an increase in nonfarm payrolls of 32,000 over the past year. That compares to a revised gain of 20,900 jobs in the prior year-over-year period. Job gains drive up the SBI because they tend to lead to greater income creation and retail sales.

While small businesses in Colorado continue to face other challenges in the aftermath of a recession, the cost of short-term financing has dropped and historically low interest rates are likely to persist throughout 2012 and much of 2013. Since small businesses tend to be borrowers, financing costs are a component of the SBI.

The Federal Reserve has maintained the federal funds rate, a key short-term interest rate, at between 0.25 percent and 0 since December 2008. The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee has noted its intent to keep the rate at that level until at least mid-2013.

The U.S. unemployment rate retreated four-tenths of a point in November to 8.6 percent, the lowest level since March 2009. However, part of the decline was attributed to an estimated 315,000 people leaving the labor force and no longer being counted as unemployed.

Nonfarm payrolls nationwide rose an estimated 120,000. Initial estimates of jobs gains for October and September were revised upward a combined 72,000, bringing average monthly job gains over the past year to 131,000.

U.S. economic performance also is a component of the SBI.