NFIB Small Business Survey: Index Tumbles in September

The latest issue of the NFIB Small Business Economic Trends came out this morning. The headline number for September came in at 103.0, down 2.3 from the previous month. The index is at the 90th percentile in this series. Today's number came in below the Investing.com forecast of 105.1.

Here is an excerpt from the opening summary of the news release.

The NFIB Index of Small Business Optimism tumbled in September from 105.3 to 103 led by a steep drop in sales expectations, not just in hurricane-affected states, but across the country.

“The temptation is to blame the decline on the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, but that is not consistent with our data,” said Juanita Duggan, NFIB President and CEO. “Small business owners across the country were measurably less enthusiastic last month.”

The first chart below highlights the 1986 baseline level of 100 and includes some labels to help us visualize that dramatic change in small-business sentiment that accompanied the Great Financial Crisis. Compare, for example, the relative resilience of the index during the 2000-2003 collapse of the Tech Bubble with the far weaker readings following the Great Recession that ended in June 2009.

NFIB Optimism Index

Here is a closer look at the indicator since the turn of the century. We are now just below the post-recession interim high.

NFIB Optimism Index Since 2000

The average monthly change in this indicator is 1.3 points. To smooth out the noise of volatility, here is a 3-month moving average of the Optimism Index along with the monthly values, shown as dots.

NFIB Optimism Index Moving Average