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Economy in Brief

U.S. Small Business Optimism Reaches Recovery High
by Tom Moeller  May 8, 2012

The National Federation of Independent Business reported that its Optimism Index improved to 94.5 last month from an unrevised 92.5 in March. The latest level matched the economic recovery high of last February. The percentage expecting credit conditions to ease surged to its highest level of the recovery as did the percentage expecting higher earnings this quarter. Firms planning to increase capital expenditures also surged. Those planning to raise employment recovered to the highest since January while those actually raising employment rose modestly. The percentage expecting the economy to improve also gained moderately. The percentage of firms lifting prices rose to its highest level since June and the percent planning to raise prices was the highest in a year. Offsetting these gains was deterioration amongst those expecting higher real sales in six months and those reporting that inventories were too low.

The most important problems faced by small business were government requirements (a greatly increased 20%), poor sales (a greatly lessened 19%), taxes (18%), inflation (9%), insurance cost & availability (8%), competition from large businesses (7%), quality of labor (6%), cost of labor (4%) and financial & interest rates (3%).

Roughly 24 million small businesses exist in the U.S. and they create 80% of all new jobs. The NFIB figures can be found in Haver's SURVEYS database.

National Federation of Independent Business Apr Mar Feb Apr'11 2011 2010 2009
Small Business Optimism Index (SA,1986=100) 94.5 92.5 94.3 91.2 91.4 89.9 86.7
Firms Expecting Higher Real Sales In Six Months (Net %) 6 8 12 5 3 1 -11
Firms Expecting Economy To Improve (Net %) -5 -8 -6 -8 -9 -1 -0
Firms With One or More Job Openings (Net %) 17 15 17 14 14 10 9
Firms With Few or No Qualified Applicant For Job Openings (Net %) 34 32 31 32 32 27 --
Firms Reporting That Credit Was Harder To Get (Net %) 7 11 8 9 10 13 14
Firms Raising Avg. Selling Prices (Net %) 8 6 1 6 5 -12 -20
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