Business Barometer®: Record share of small businesses struggle with borrowing costs, shortage of working capital

Toronto, September 29, 2023 – Over half (51%) of small business owners now say borrowing costs are causing difficulties for their business, according to the latest Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Business Barometer®. This indicator has surpassed its historical average of 22% and is at its highest point since CFIB began tracking it in 2009. Following a sharp increase in two months, a record share of businesses (36%) also cited a shortage of working capital as one of their biggest limitations on growth.

Many businesses were having difficulties with other costs in September: 67% (+9% since August) of businesses reported that fuel and energy costs were causing difficulties, 62% (stable) kept struggling with wage costs and 61% (stable) flagged tax and regulatory costs. 

“The Bank of Canada tapped the brakes more firmly with its rate hikes in June and July. Although it kept the rate unchanged at 5% this September, a large and growing number of businesses now deal with significant financing challenges, on top of the already very difficult business environment” said Andreea Bourgeois, Director of Economics at CFIB. “Small businesses reinvest 66 cents of every dollar earned back in their communities. With holiday season fast approaching, this is another reminder to support local businesses whenever possible.”

The small business confidence index over the next 12 months posted a significant drop in optimism, down six points to 48.7. 

The country’s two largest provinces, Ontario (48.9) and Quebec (49.8), were at the bottom of the optimism scale, both registering confidence levels below 50.

Among the sectors, agriculture (38.0), retail (42.3) and wholesale (47.4) had the lowest levels of confidence, while businesses in service sectors, such as information and recreation (63.2) and health and education (65.7), topped the rankings.

“Many of the Business Barometer indicators this month continue to point to a tough business environment and sluggish recovery,” concluded Simon Gaudreault, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president of research. “Small businesses weren’t overly optimistic and had challenges accessing financing even before the recent Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and Employment Insurance (EI) announcements. One can only presume that things will get worse for them if there’s never any relief in sight.”

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, CFIB

September Business Barometer®: September findings are based on 520 responses from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received from September 5th to the 15th. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 4.3 per cent, 19 times in 20. Every new month, the entire series of indicators is recalculated for the previous month to include all survey responses received in that previous month. Measured on a scale between 0 and 100, an index above 50 means owners expecting their business’s performance to be stronger over the next three or 12 months outnumber those expecting weaker performance. An index level near 65 normally indicates that the economy is growing at its potential.

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members 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. Learn more at