Index: Small business owners more upbeat

William Dunkelberg
Juanita Duggan

A monthly measure of optimism among small business owners has rebounded on more upbeat expectations, but also reflects difficulty in finding qualified employees.

“Contrary to the narrative about impending economic doom, the small business sector remains exceptional,” said William Dunkelberg, chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Juanita Duggan, president and chief executive officer of the NFIB, agreed. “Small business owners want to grow their operations, and the only thing stopping them is finding qualified workers.”

The NFIB reported its Small Business Optimism Index rose 1.4 points to 104.7 in July with seven of 10 components of the index advancing. The

The NFIB bases the index on monthly surveys of members of the small business advocacy group, most of them small business owners.

“This month’s index is a confirmation that small business owners remain very optimistic about the economy, but are being hamstrung by not finding the workers they need,” Dunkelberg said.

A net 20 percent of small business owners responding to the survey upon which the July index was based said they expect the economy to improve, up four points from June.

A net 27 percent of owners reported plans to increase capital outlays, up a point. A net 26 percent of owners said they consider now a good time to expand, up two points.

A net 22 percent of owners said they expect higher sales, up five points.

The proportion of owners who reported increased earnings rose three points. But at a net negative 4 percent, more owners reported lower earnings than higher earnings.

A net 21 percent of owners reported plans to increase staffing, up three points. But a net 39 percent of owners reported hard-to-fill job openings, also up three points. A record 26 percent of owners cited finding qualified workers as their single most important business problem, ahead of  taxes and government regulations.

A net 3 percent of owners reported plans to increase inventories, unchanged from June. At a net negative 3 percent, more owners reported current inventories as too high rather than too low.