NFIB Small Business Optimism Index Rose to 90.9 in February

Washington, DC, March 14, 2023-The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index increased 0.6 points in February to 90.9 but remains below the 49-year average of 98. 

Twenty-eight percent of owners reported inflation as their single most important business problem, up two points from last month. Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months deteriorated two points from January to a net negative 47%.

“Small business owners remain doubtful that business conditions will get better in the coming months,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “They continue to struggle with historic inflation and labor shortages that are holding back growth. Despite their economic challenges, owners are working hard to create new jobs to strengthen the economy and their firms.”

Key findings include:

* Forty-seven percent of owners reported job openings that were hard to fill, remaining historically very high.

* The net percent of owners raising average selling prices decreased four points to a net 38% (seasonally adjusted).

* The net percent of owners who expect real sales to be higher improved five points from January to a net negative 9%.

As reported in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, 60% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in February. Of those hiring or trying to hire, 90% of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for their open positions.

Sixty percent of owners reported capital outlays in the last six months. Of those making expenditures, 40% reported spending on new equipment, 26% acquired vehicles, and 12% spent money for new fixtures and furniture. Eighteen percent of owners improved or expanded facilities and 6% acquired new buildings or land for expansion. Twenty-one percent plan capital outlays in the next few months.

A net negative 6% of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, down two points from January. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes improved five points to a net negative 9%.

The net percent of owners reporting inventory increases declined seven points to a net negative 1%. Not seasonally adjusted, 13% reported increases in stocks and 19% reported reductions.

Twenty percent of owners recently reported that supply chain disruptions still have a significant impact on their business. Another 33% reported a moderate impact and 34% reported a mild impact. Labor supply problems are widespread.