There was a slight glimmer of hope for small business owners in Alberta in March.
The monthly Business Barometer index, by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, increased by 1.8 points in the province but Alberta business owners remain the least confident in the country.
“With a provincial election in full swing, Alberta’s entrepreneurs are looking for the parties to make meaningful policy commitments to help our province’s small and medium-sized business sector shake off the recession and start growing again. Having solid economic policies will be key to reinvigorating Alberta’s business confidence” said Richard Truscott, Vice-President, Alberta and BC, in a statement.
While small business confidence rose to 42.1 points in March, it continues to fall short of the national average of 55.9. The CFIB says the 65 to 75 point range (on the 100 point scale) indicates a healthy and growing economy.
The CFIB survey in Alberta also found that 11 per cent of business owners are expecting their full-time employment levels to go up in the near future, representing a two-point increase from February’s results. Also, 60 per cent expect their full time employment level to remain the same, and 29 per cent expect it to decrease.
The provincial numbers for March were: Nova Scotia (66.8), Quebec (65.3), Prince Edward Island (59.7), Ontario (59.5), New Brunswick (56.6), British Columbia (55.9), Manitoba (51.4), Saskatchewan (50.8), Newfoundland & Labrador (48.7), and Alberta (42.1).
“Small business confidence continues to disappoint. The index moved sideways, near 60, for most of 2018, but has averaged 57 so far in 2019. This subdued performance is consistent with a moderating economy and downwardly revised growth forecasts. Reinforcing this point is an easing in indicators of capacity constraints, including lower gauges of inflationary pressures and reduced incidence of labour shortages as a factor limiting production,” said Omar Abdelrahman, an economist with TD Economics.
“The resource-heavy provinces and natural resource sectors continue to weigh down on the index’s performance. With Alberta’s (oil producation) curtailment plan supporting prices in the near term, some of this weakness should be reversed. That said, confidence in the sector and the province are likely to remain weak for some time given structural issues related to market access, uncertainty related to global oil prices, and weaknesses in the outlook for some other commodities that will impact the Prairies more broadly.”
Mario Toneguzzi is a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.