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Economic uncertainty gives business owners pause


Small business owners across the country are expressing concern over the current and future economic climate in the U.S.

According to the most recent Small Business Economic Trends Survey from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), small business owners are not optimistic about the U.S. economic environment.

The latest NFIB Optimism Index for business owners is decreased 0.1 points to 90.7 in October 2023, marking the 22nd month below the nation’s 50-year average.

“This month marks the 50th anniversary of NFIB’s small business economic survey,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg in a statement. “The October data shows that small businesses are still recovering, and owners are not optimistic about better business conditions. Small business owners are not growing their inventories as labor and energy costs are not falling, making it a gloomy outlook for the remainder of the year.”

While state specific data is not available, Mississippi Director Dawn McVea said that business owners are continuing to struggle with uncertainty as to where the economy is headed.

“Small business owners need predictability, and unfortunately there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there. Inflation is still driving up the cost of doing business, and finding and keeping good workers remains a challenge,” said McVea.

The most recent NFIB report indicated that business owners’ most important issue was continuing high inflation. Those who are expecting better business conditions in the next six months have not changed at 43%, seasonally adjusted.

Sales are also down 9 points from September – the lowest since July 2020.

A number of businesses are still reporting hiring issues, saying they had job openings that were hard to fill, an issue that has been a consistent concern with openings remaining historically high, according to the NFIB.

“The net percent of owners who expect real sales to be higher increased three points from September to a net negative 10%. As reported in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, a seasonally adjusted net 17% of owners plan to create new jobs in the next three months,” the report noted. “Overall, 61% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in October. Of those hiring or trying to hire, 90% of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.”

Business creation has steadily increased from a December count of 1,306 in 2019 to 2,093 through 2022. Business creation dropped slightly in the first quarter of 2023 to 1,707, a number still on par with previous years’ growth.

Throughout the pandemic years, job business creation increased as well as exponential job opportunities going from 5,700 new jobs in 2019 to 8,500 jobs in 2022. Through the first quarter of 2023, 7,078 jobs were created putting this year on track to exceed the previous reports.

With the surplus in employment opportunities, it exacerbates business owners’ concerns over a lack of qualified workforce in the state.

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