Business Barometer®: Manitoba small business optimism slips again in March, but PST relief welcomed

Winnipeg, March 28, 2019 – Today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its latest monthly Business Barometer®, which reveals optimism among Manitoba’s small business owners slipped again in March to an index of 51.4, down from 52.6 in February. It is now over four points below the national average index of 55.9

“Optimism among Manitoba's small businesses slipped further in March with the index losing another point to settle at 51.4,” said Jonathan Alward, CFIB’s Director of Provincial Affairs for Manitoba. “Clearly, there are a number of issues weighing heavily on the minds of Manitoba’s entrepreneurs including seven years of CPP premium hikes, the costly federal carbon tax beginning on April 1, 2019, and significant trade uncertainty for Manitoba farmers as a result of China’s decision to stop buying canola just weeks before spring seeding.”  

CFIB’s March Business Barometer® survey was conducted between March 4 and 18; beginning before the Government of Manitoba’s budget (March 7), and ending before the 2019 Federal budget (March 19). “While we were disappointed that the federal budget provided little relief for small businesses facing a barrage of new and higher taxes, we were pleased that the provincial budget announced much needed tax relief coming on July 1st with the PST reduction,” added Alward. 

Nationally, small businesses suffered a significant drop in confidence this month with the index falling 3 points to 55.9.
“This is one of the worst readings we’ve seen in the past three years,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice-president and chief economist. “It’s not typical for hiring intentions to be so low at this time of year, as businesses should be gearing up for the busier spring and summer seasons, but it’s indicative of the low level of optimism that private-sector firms are reporting.”

Provincial results: Major drop in confidence in Ontario and Saskatchewan

Nova Scotia and Quebec posted the highest levels of optimism this month, at 66.8 and 65.3 respectively. Ontario experienced the greatest drop in optimism this month, falling 4.6 index points to 59.5, followed by Saskatchewan, which lost 4.4 index points to 50.8 and fell well below the national average. Prince Edward Island (59.7), New Brunswick (56.6) and British Columbia (55.9) posted results equal to or above the national average. Alberta remained the least optimistic province at 42.1. Newfoundland & Labrador (48.7) and Manitoba (51.4) also posted results below the national average.

Highlights of the Manitoba Business Barometer for March:

  • 42% of businesses in Manitoba say their overall state of business is good (43% nationally); 16% say it is bad (14% nationally);
  • 21% plan to increase employment in the next 3 months (17% nationally) and 14% of Manitoba businesses plan to decrease full-time employment (15% nationally);
  • Shortage of skilled labour is the main operating challenge (40%), followed by insufficient domestic demand (32%) and management skills, time constraints (26%);
  • Major cost pressures for small business include: tax, regulatory costs (65%), wage costs (58%), fuel, energy costs (52%) and insurance costs (42%).

Read the March Business Barometer®.

Measured on a scale of 0 and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. One normally sees an index level of between 65 and 70 when the economy is growing at its potential. March 2019 findings are based on 697 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received through March 18. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.7 per cent 19 times in 20.

To arrange an interview with Jonathan Alward, Director of Provincial Affairs for Manitoba on the provincial results, please call 1 888-234-2232, 204-982-0817 or email You can also follow CFIB Manitoba on Twitter @cfibMB.

To arrange an interview with Ted Mallett, Vice-President & Chief Economist on the national results please contact Milena Stanoeva at 647-464-2814 or You may also follow Ted on Twitter @cfibeconomics. 

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members (4,800 in Manitoba) across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings.