U.S. Small Business Optimism Reaches 25-Year High

By Juliette Rocheleau
Medill Reports

Small business owners are feeling large and in charge as their outlook reaches a 25-year high, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

The NFIB index of small business optimism rose .7 to 107.6 in February, up from 106.9 in January and exceeding a predicted 107.1.

“After years of standing on the sidelines and not benefiting from the so-called recovery, Main Street is on fire again,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan in a press release.

The reading is the second highest since the survey began 43 years ago. For the first time since 2006, taxes received the fewest votes as the number one problem for small business owners.

Small businesses that act as suppliers to large companies are feeling the residual benefits of the tax cuts enacted at the end of 2017, said Peter Morici, economist and professor emeritus at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

“Bottom line: the tax cut and the general growth of the large companies, the stock market–all that’s lifting small business optimism,” said Morici.

U.S. Small Business Optimism Index. (Source: NFIB)

The survey found that businesses cited the lack of qualified talent as the number one barrier to small business growth, but for New York-based product agency Dom & Tom, the issue is more nuanced than a lack of talent in the hiring pool.

Joe Tancredi, director of special projects at Dom & Tom, which offers web and mobile development services for Fortune 500 companies and startups, said that “finding and keeping the best talent was a major hurdle” a few years ago. Today, the main barrier for Dom & Tom centers around distinguishing them from competitors who, the company says, deceive clients.

“The number one problem facing us right now is: bad, inauthentic and fraudulent agencies and freelancers in the space that undermine the potential for quality digital product concept and creation,” said Tancredi in an email.

Tancredi, who opened the Chicago office for Dom & Tom, also said that cautious optimism has always been at the center of the company’s operation, and as the company continues to grow, its key focus, he declared, remains on growing responsibly.

Small business owners who reported making or planning capital outlays rose to 66 percent, up five points from January. The increase reflects a surge in confidence with regard to the U.S. economy, according to NFIB.

“Small business owners are telling us loud and clear that they’re optimistic, ready to hire, and prepared to raise wages,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg.

Photo at top: Shops on Main Street in Canandaigua, New York. (Daniel Case/Creative Commons)