U.S. Small Businesses Slightly More Optimistic in February

U.S. small-business optimism rose slightly in February even as the month’s winter weather held back economic activity.

The National Federation of Independent Business index of sentiment increased by 0.8 point to 95.8, the group said Tuesday. The figure was below the median projection of 97 in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Uncertainty for small businesses fell to a 10-month low and they reported a sharp increase in selling prices, which rose 8 points to an all-time high of a net 25%.

“Small-business owners worked hard in February to overcome unexpected weather conditions along with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Capital spending has been strong, but not on Main Street. The economic recovery remains uneven for small businesses, especially those still managing state and local regulations and restrictions.”

Earnings trends and those expecting better business conditions rose from the previous month, while inventory satisfaction held steady. On the downside, sales expectations and plans to expand fell in February, the NFIB data showed. And 40% of owners reported job openings that could not be filled, an increase of 7 points.

While the economic backdrop is improving, challenges remain.

“A lot of Main Street is still not fully operational; amusements, restaurants, gyms,
specialty retail shops and more, all dependent on ‘foot traffic,’” according to the report. “There is still significant policy uncertainty” for Covid-19, tax and regulations, it said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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