Small Business Optimism Rose to 89.4 in May

Washington, DC, June 13, 2023-The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index increased 0.4 points in May to 89.4, which is the 17th consecutive month below the 49-year average of 98. 

The last time the Index was at or above the average was in December 2021. Small business owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months declined one point from April to a net negative 50%. Twenty-five percent of owners reported that inflation was their single most important problem in operating their business, up two points from last month and followed by labor quality at 24%.

“Overall, small business owners are expressing concerns for future business conditions,” said Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB chief economist. “Supply chain disruptions and labor shortages will continue to limit the ability of many small firms to meet the demand for their products and services, while less severe than last year’s experience.”

Key findings include:

* Forty-four percent of owners reported job openings that were hard to fill, down one point from April and remaining historically very high.

* The net percent of owners raising average selling prices decreased one point to a net 32% (seasonally adjusted), still an inflationary level but trending down.

* The net percent of owners who expect real sales to be higher deteriorated two points from April to a net negative 21%.

As reported in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, owners’ plans to fill open positions remain elevated, with a seasonally adjusted net 19% planning to create new jobs in the next three months. Overall, 63% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in May, up three points from April. Of those hiring or trying to hire, 89% of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for their open positions.

Fifty-seven percent of owners reported capital outlays in the last six months, up one point from April. Of those making expenditures, 38% reported spending on new equipment, 24% acquired vehicles, and 12% spent money on new fixtures and furniture. Fifteen percent improved or expanded facilities and 7% acquired new buildings or land for expansion. Twenty-five percent of owners plan capital outlays in the next few months, up six points from April.