US small business continues optimistic surge

As we head into one of the most critical periods of the business year, it appears as if American small business optimism has remained intact, for the most part, and continues to surge forward. The latest economic report released by the National Federation of Independent Businesses {NFIB} has shown that optimism seems the course going forward into the holiday season. The following is taken directly from the latest NFIB report:

  • The NFIB Optimism Index remained at 104.0 in October, unchanged from September and a historically high reading. Four of the 10 components improved, 5 declined, and 1 was unchanged. Although all of the data was collected prior to Election Day, a 6-point increase in the NFIB Uncertainty Index to 98 was likely driven by the election and uncertain conditions in future months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and possible government mandated shutdowns.
  • Earnings trends over the past three months improved 9 points to a net negative 3% reporting higher earnings.
  • Earnings trends have improved to pre-crisis levels, up 32 points since June.
  • Inventory investment plans for the next three to six months increased 1 point to a net 12%, a record high.
  • Real sales expectations in the next three months increased 3 points to a net 11% expecting gains.
  • Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months declined 5 points to a net 27%.

  • As reported in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, small business owners are looking to hire, reporting a historically high level of job openings in October. Overall, 55% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in October, down 1 point from September. Thirty-three percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down 3 points from September’s report.
  • Small businesses have continued to see improvements in foot traffic and sales with a net 6% of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reporting higher nominal sales in the past three months, an improvement of 12 points from September. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes increased 3 points to a net 11% of owners.
  • Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners raising average selling prices rose 2 points to a net 15%. Unadjusted, 10% (down 1 point) reported lower average selling prices, and 23% (unchanged) reported higher average prices. Price hikes were the most frequent in retail (26% higher, 7% lower) and wholesale (21% higher, 13% lower). Seasonally adjusted, a net 20% plan price hikes (up 3 points). The frequency of average price increases above 10% remained high.
  • Momentum going into the 4th quarter is quite strong. The inventory build alone could add several percentage points to the growth rate. The Federal Reserve is on board with monetary stimulus. Even if a stimulus package is passed after the election, it is unlikely to have a major impact on the 4th quarter results, most likely impacting in the 1st quarter of 2021. Consumer spending will be the main workhorse for the rest of this year.

-Written by Kevin Sawyer