It has been a tough year for small business owners in Alberta and that was evident again on Friday with the release of the Business Barometer measure by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
In December, the barometer in the province dropped by 6.4 points to 38.3. That is the lowest in the country, which averaged 55.5.
The CFIB says an index level nearer to 65 indicates the economy is growing at its potential.
“Small business owners are entering the new decade with a generally low outlook, although there are pronounced regional differences, with resource economies particularly pessimistic,” Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice-president and chief economist, stated in a news release.
“There is a lot of economic anxiety right now in the small business sector, especially around insufficient domestic demand, which business owners are citing as one of their biggest limitations on growth.”
The CFIB says only 38 per cent of owners say their business is in a good state, the lowest proportion since 2016, compared to 16 per cent who say it is in a bad state. Hiring plans also fell this month, with just 13 per cent of owners planning to add full-time staff in the next three months compared to 16 per cent who plan to cut back. On average, business owners plan to increase wages by 1.6 per cent over the next year.
The provincial barometer measures were: Prince Edward Island, 74.1; Quebec, 65.5; New Brunswick, 62.7; Ontario, 62.5; Nova Scotia, 60.2; Manitoba, 57.9; British Columbia, 55.2; Newfoundland & Labrador, 47.7; and Saskatchewan, 40.0.
“The natural resources sector had the weakest outlook, dropping 7.0 index points to 45.7. Businesses in transportation (47.9), agriculture (49.4) and hospitality (50.5) also reported low optimism levels. Despite the holiday shopping season, retailers experienced a 5.3 index point drop in optimism, falling to 53.2. Health services (66.5), financial services (64.4) and professional services (61.1) had the highest optimism levels. Confidence gains in construction (up 2.0 index points to 57.5), financial services (up 0.8 index points to 64.4) and manufacturing (up 0.3 index points to 58.5), the only sectors to see increases this month, were moderate compared to the losses in the other 10 sectors,” said the CFIB report.