Small Business Optimism Rose to 104.0 in September

Washington, DC, October 13, 2020-The NFIB Optimism Index rose 3.8 points to 104.0 in September, a historically high reading. 

Nine of the ten Index components improved and one declined. The NFIB Uncertainty Index increased two points to 92, up from 75 in April.

“As parts of the country continue to open, small businesses are seeing some improvements in foot traffic and sales,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “However, some small businesses are still struggling financially to operate at full capacity while navigating state and local regulations and are uncertain about what will happen in the future.”

Other key findings include:

* Earnings trends over the past three months improved 13 points to a net negative 12% reporting higher earnings.

* Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months improved eight points to a net 32%.

* Real sales expectations in the next three months increased five points to a net 8%.

* Inventory investment plans over the next three to six months increased by five points to a net 11%.

* The percent of owners thinking it’s a good time to expand increased one point to 13%.

Included in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, a net 23% (seasonally adjusted) of owners plan to create new jobs in the next three months, up two points from the August report and 22 points above April’s report. However, 36% (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings that they could not fill in the current period.

Fifty-three percent of owners reported capital outlays in the last six months, up six points from August. Of those making expenditures, 38% reported spending on new equipment (up four points), 23% acquired vehicles (up two points), and 16% improved or expanded facilities (down four points). Four percent acquired a new building or land for expansion (down two points) and 8% spent money on new fixtures and furniture (down one point).

A net negative 6% of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, an improvement of nine points from August but still below pre-crisis levels. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes increased five points to a net 8% of owners.