Small business optimism slips, but still at historic levels

William Dunkelberg
William Dunkelberg
Juanita Duggan
Juanita Duggan

A monthly measure of optimism among small business owners has slipped but remains at historically high levels.

The National Federation of Independent Business reported its Small Business Optimism Index retreated six-tenths of a point in June. But at 107.2, the reading was the sixth highest in the 45-year history of the index.

“There was a fractional decline in the index from May to June, statistically insignificant. Small business owners are already seeing their bottom lines grow due to strong sales and regulatory relief, and the new tax law is expected to push profits higher as the year progresses,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist of the NFIB.

Juanita Duggan, president and chief executive officer of the NFIB, agreed. “Small business owners continue to report astounding optimism as they celebrate strong sales, the creation of jobs and more profits. The first six months of the year have been very good to small business thanks to tax cuts, regulatory reform and policies that help them grow.”

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

For June, business owners responding to the survey upon which the June index was based reported plans to increase inventories and staffing.

A net 10 percent of owners reported higher nominal sales in the past three months. That’s down from May, but still one of the strongest readings in years. Reports of sales increases were most frequent in the manufacturing and wholesale trades sectors. The proportion of owners reporting higher earnings also fell, but remained near historic highs.

Business owners cited finding qualified workers as their single most important business problem.