California Comment on Latest Optimism Index Findings

Date: February 14, 2024

Small businesses register 25th consecutive month below 50-year average

Contact: John Kabateck, California State Director, [email protected]
or Tony Malandra, Senior Media Manager, [email protected]

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 13, 2024—January marked the 25th consecutive month the nation’s leading small business economic barometer was below its 50-year average, according to the latest Small Business Economic Trends (SBET) report released today by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

“Nice to see the S&P 500, DJIA, and the Nasdaq Composite Indexes all doing well, but the one that matters the most – and should to every policymaker in America – is not, and that needs to change if small business, the engine of every economy on earth, is to ever rev again,” said John Kabateck, California state director for NFIB. ”A lot of factors contributing to Main Street’s malaise are at work, but California, more than any other state, adds its homemade handicaps such as this year’s five migraine-inducing compliance headaches and legislative proposals attacking independent contractors (SB 988), limiting an employer’s free speech with his employees (SB 399), and allowing paid sick days to accrue like they were airline mileage points (AB 1359). While a predicted $50 billion state budget deficit for years to come has managed to tame this Legislature’s desire to spend money a bit, it’s come at the cost of tickling its fetish for more regulations.”

From NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg

“Small business owners continue to make appropriate business adjustments in response to the ongoing economic challenges they’re facing. In January, optimism among small business owners dropped as inflation remains a key obstacle on Main Street.”

NFIB’s monthly Small Business Economic Trends (SBET) report is the gold standard measurement of America’s small business economy. Used by the Federal Reserve, Congressional leaders, administration officials, and state legislatures across the nation, it’s regarded as the bellwether on the health and welfare of the Main Street enterprises that employ half of all workers, generate more net new jobs than large corporations, and gave most of us the first start in our working life. The SBET (Optimism Index) is a national snapshot of NFIB-member, small-business owners not broken down by state. The typical NFIB member employs 10 people and reports gross sales of about $500,000 a year.

Highlights from Today’s Report

  • The frequency of reports of positive profit trends was a net negative 30%, five points worse than in December and a very poor reading.
  • Twenty percent of owners reported that inflation was their single most important problem in operating their business, down three points from last month and one point behind labor quality as the top problem.
  • Small business owners’ plans to fill open positions softened, with a seasonally adjusted net 14% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down two points from December and the lowest level since May 2020.
  • Thirty-nine percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down one point from December and the lowest reading since January 2021.

Keep up with the latest on California small-business news at or by following NFIB on Twitter @NFIB_CA or on Facebook @NFIB.CA.


For 80 years, NFIB has been advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals. NFIB is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member-driven association. Since its founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses and remains so today. For more information, please visit 

NFIB California
915 L St. Ste C-411
Sacramento, CA 95814
Twitter: @NFIB_CA





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