NFIB Small Business Survey: Future Growth Outlook Dismal

The latest issue of the NFIB Small Business Economic Trends came out this morning. The headline number for October came in at 91.3, down 0.8 from the previous month. The index is at the 10th percentile in this series.

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

“Owners continue to show a dismal view about future sales growth and business conditions, but are still looking to hire new workers,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages continue to limit the ability of many small businesses to meet the demand for their products and services.”

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 and now the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 and today's figures.

NFIB Optimism Index

Here is a closer look at the indicator since the turn of the century.

NFIB Optimism Index Since 2000

The average monthly change in this indicator is 1.4 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