Alberta sees another all-time low for small business confidence

Alberta’s small business confidence index dropped 4.3 points to 33.1. This latest result is more than 23 points below the next lowest province (Saskatchewan) and is the weakest ever recorded anywhere in Canada in the 15 years CFIB has been tracking small business optimism.

Hiring plans remained very negative with 30 per cent of owners saying they will reduce their full-time workforce, up six points from November, compared with only nine per cent who intend to hire, down four points. The December 2015 hiring sentiment is almost exactly the opposite of what it was one year ago.

Usually we see an upward bump in December due to the busy holiday season, especially for the service and retail sectors, but in fact the index instead dropped by a sizeable margin. The year ahead is shaping up to be one of the toughest years for small business in the history of our province.

Employers are reeling from the enormous downturn in the economy that isn’t showing any signs of letting up and to make matters worse, the provincial government has dog-piled on small businesses by rushing through a series of major policy changes, that includes hiking personal and corporate income taxes, putting Alberta on the path to a $15 an hour minimum wage, and introducing a carbon tax on pretty much everything in the economy. No wonder business owners are feeling gloomy about the future.

The national index for December dropped three points to 55.7. Across the country, Nova Scotia (71.0) was home to nation’s most confident entrepreneurs, followed by Manitoba (66.4), B.C. (65.9), Newfoundland & Labrador (64.8), New Brunswick (61.8), PEI (61.1), Ontario (59.9), Quebec (59.6), Saskatchewan (56.3), and Alberta (33.1).

The December 2015 findings are based on 759 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received through December 14. Findings are considered accurate to +\- 3.6 per cent 19 times in 20.

On a scale between 0 and 100, an index above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. An index level between 65 and 75 is typically when the economy is growing.