NFIB Small Business Survey: "Heating Up After Years on the Sideline"

The latest issue of the NFIB Small Business Economic Trends came out this morning. The headline number for February came in at 107.6, up 0.7 from the previous month and its second highest of all time. The index is at the 99th percentile in this series. Today's number came in above the forecast of 107.1.

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

Small business owners are showing unprecedented confidence in the economy as the optimism index continues at record high numbers, rising to 107.6 in February, according to the NFIB Small Business Economic Trends Survey, released today. The historically high numbers include a jump in small business owners increasing capital outlays and raising compensation.

“When small business owners have confidence and certainty in the economy, they’re able to hire more workers and invest in their business,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “The historically high readings indicate that policy changes – lower taxes and fewer regulations – are transformative for small businesses. After years of standing on the sidelines and not benefiting from the so-called recovery, Main Street is on fire again.”

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 just below the post-recession 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