U.S. Small-Business Optimism Index Rises to Highest Since 1983

(Bloomberg) -- Small businesses in the U.S. were the most optimistic in more than three decades as recent tax cuts and economic growth spurred expectations for sales gains, according to a National Federation of Independent Business survey released Tuesday.

Highlights of Small-Business Optimism (February)

  • Index rose 0.7 points to 107.6 (est. 107.1), highest since 1983
  • 32% said now was a good time to expand businesses, unchanged from previous month’s record high
  • Net 43% expect business conditions to improve

Key Takeaways

Almost all of the 10 index components, including inventory plans and sales expectations, increased or held steady in February, propelling the gauge to its second-highest level since the survey began in 1973. Amid tax cuts and deregulation enacted by the Trump administration, businesses cited improved profit trends at the best level since 1987.

The No. 1 issue for companies, though, continued to be finding skilled labor, with 34 percent of respondents reporting job openings they couldn’t fill, led by the construction and manufacturing industries. About 15 percent said they’re using temporary workers, the highest level since November 2016.

Other Details

  • 66 percent of firms reported making capital outlays, the highest reading since 2004
  • Net 8 percent of owners reported higher sales in past three months, up 3 percentage points
  • Those reporting inventory increases rose to a net 7 percent, strongest since January 2000; net 4 percent plan to add to inventory, up 1 point from prior month

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