Small business optimism strong, with high demand for personnel

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index remained basically unchanged in December, drifting down 0.4 points to 104.4, according to the report released today.

Unfilled jobs and the lack of qualified applicants continue to be a primary driver, with job openings setting a record high and job creation plans strengthening.

State-specific data is unavailable, but NFIB State Director Ben Homeyer said South Carolina employers also are struggling to find qualified workers. “Our small business members say that’s one of their biggest challenges.”

Reports of higher worker compensation remained near record levels and inventory investment plans surged. Expected real sales growth and expected business conditions in the next six months, however, accounted for the modest decline in the Index.

“Optimism among small business owners continues to push record highs, but they need workers to generate more sales, provide services, and complete projects, said NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan. “Two of every three of these new jobs are historically created by the small business half of the economy, so it will be Main Street that will continue to drive economic growth.”

A recent historical perspective:

Actual hiring strengthened to the highest reading in six months, job openings are at a record high levels, and plans to create new jobs are down only three points from August’s record high.

The net percent of owners expecting better business conditions in six months and the percent viewing the current period as a good time to expand have both tapered off since the record high Index reading in August but still remain well above their historical averages.

Actual capital outlays are five percentage points higher than in August, although plans for outlays are eight points below the high for this expansion.

Plans to invest in inventories are only two points below August, the record high. Satisfaction with inventories is two points better.

Last week’s NFIB Jobs Report noted that job creation remained solid with a net addition of 0.25 workers per firm, up from 0.19 in November and the best reading since July. A seasonally-adjusted net 23 percent plan to create new jobs, up one point from November’s reading. Not seasonally adjusted, 23 percent plan to increase total employment at their firm (up one point), and five percent plan reductions (down two points).

Categories: Business, Columbia, Richland County

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