Small Business Optimism Falls to Lowest Level Since 2012

Date: April 17, 2024

Small business job openings fall to pre-pandemic levels as the labor market remains tight

Small business owners continue to cite inflation as the top concern as job openings have slowed down to pre-pandemic levels. In NFIB’s monthly Small Business Economic Trends survey, the Small Business Optimism Index decreased by 0.9 of a point in March to 88.5, the lowest level since December 2012. This is the 27th consecutive month below the 50-year average of 98. The last time the index was at or above the average was in December 2021.  

“Small business optimism has reached the lowest level since 2012 as owners continue to manage numerous economic headwinds,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Inflation has once again been reported as the top business problem on Main Street and the labor market has only eased slightly.”  

Key findings of the report include: 

  • Twenty-five percent of small business owners reported that inflation was their single most important business problem, up two points from last month. 
  • A net negative 10% of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, up three points from February.  
  • The net percentage of owners expecting higher retail volumes declined eight points to a net negative 18% (seasonally adjusted). 
  • Thirty-seven percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, unchanged from February. 
  • The net percentage of owners raising average selling prices rose seven points from February to a net 28% (seasonally adjusted).  

Ownners’ plans to fill open positions continued to slow with a seasonally adjusted net 11% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down one point from February and the lowest level since May 2020.   

The net percentage of owners reporting inventory gains fell six points to a net negative 7% (seasonally adjusted). Not seasonally adjusted, 12% reported stock increases (down one point from February), and 22% reported reductions (unchanged from February). A net negative 5% (seasonally adjusted) of owners viewed current inventory stocks as “too low” in March, down one point from February.  

Price hikes were the most frequent in finance (61% higher, 10% lower), retail (54% higher, 6% lower), construction (51% higher, 4% lower), wholesale (50% higher, 17% lower), and transportation (44% higher, 0% lower).  

The full Small Business Economic Trends report and the NFIB Jobs Report are available for further analysis.  

Subscribe For Free News And Tips

Enter your email to get FREE small business insights. Learn more

Get to know NFIB

NFIB is a member-driven organization advocating on behalf of small and independent businesses nationwide.

Learn More

Or call us today

© 2001 - 2024 National Federation of Independent Business. All Rights Reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy