Small-Business Owners’ Confidence in U.S. Economy Weakens
Small-business owners’ confidence in the U.S. economy fell for the fourth consecutive month and their outlook on business conditions fell to the lowest level since late 2016, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.
The conservative-leaning small-business lobby said its optimism index fell to 104.4 in December from November’s 104.8 reading. Economists had expected a December reading of 103, according to a Wall Street Journal survey.
The index had set a high of 108.8 in August, breaking a July 1983 record.
The NFIB survey is a monthly snapshot of small businesses in the U.S., which account for about half of private-sector jobs.
Economists look to the report for a read on domestic demand and to extrapolate hiring and wage trends in the broader economy.
The NFIB’s December survey results showed fewer respondents from a month earlier thought now was a good time to expand their operations, as several of them cited economic conditions and the political climate.
“Over the past few months, owners’ expectations for the future have tempered, while reporting continued solid economic activity,” the NFIB said in its report, based on responses from 621 small-business owners. “The Index remains at historically high levels but can’t be expected to improve every month.”
The survey results mirror those from the Conference Board, whose December survey suggested growing economic-growth concerns.
Another key indicator economists use to gauge domestic consumer spending, the University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment, rose in December as confidence in job and wage prospects appeared to outweigh worries about financial markets.