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May 11
2010

Small businesses still pessimistic

Posted by Stephen Taub in small businessNational Federation of Independent BusinessjobsCashcapital expenditures

Stephen Taub

Don't look for small businesses to lead the economic recovery.

The monthly reading from the National Federation of Independent Business Index of Small Business Optimism clearly shows little optimism among small business.

Sure, nine of the 10 components that comprise the index rose from the prior month.

However, some of the critical factors that would indicate whether small business owners plan to invest in their firms did not show encouraging results. The NFIB's job measures barely moved and capital expenditure plans were flat.

More specifically, according to the survey average employment per firm was negative in April. What's more, since July 2008 employment per firm has fallen steadily each quarter, logging the largest reductions in the survey's 35-year history.

If small business is key to job growth-as some pundits think-then this does not bode well for our economy.

And the jobs small businesses create are not exactly great ones. They are more likely to come without benefits and less time off for vacation.

Meanwhile, the Index does not suggest that small businesses will be investing heavily in non-personnel. It noted that plans to make capital expenditures over the next few months were unchanged from the prior month and its reading is only slightly above the 35-year record low.

Yikes!

The survey also noted that small business owners continued to liquidate inventories and weak sales trends gave little reason to order new stock. In fact, more owners plan to reduce stocks than plan new orders, according to the NFIB.

Meanwhile, regular borrowers continued to report difficulties in arranging credit.  "Historically weak plans to make capital expenditures, to add to inventory and expand operations also make it clear that many borrowers are simply on the sidelines, waiting for a good reason to make capital outlays and order inventory that requires businesses to take out the usual loans used to support these activities," the report notes.

Obviously, small businesses are not going to turn this economy around any time soon.

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