Business Barometer®: Sask small business optimism falls again in October; Agriculture challenges taking a toll

Regina, October 31, 2019 – Today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its latest monthly Business Barometer®, which reveals optimism among small business owners in Saskatchewan declined again in October to an index of 50.0, down from 53.1 in September. The index is still almost 10 points below the national average index of 59.8.

“Saskatchewan's small businesses are dealing with a lot of uncertainty, which is reflected in the province’s index dropping a further 3 points in October to 50.0,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s Vice-President, Prairie & Agri-business. “Hiring plans have also weakened with 25 per cent of business owners planning lay-offs in the next three months, which is a record high for lay-offs in the province compared to only 9 per cent who plan on hiring.”

“We know there are a number of challenges and uncertainties facing Saskatchewan businesses,” added Braun-Pollon. “We hope the new Saskatchewan Growth Plan will outline policies that will help restore small business confidence and continue to address Saskatchewan’s outstanding competitive challenges.”
Nationally, small business confidence rose by only half an index point to 59.8 on CFIB’s Business Barometer® in October.

“Business owners are in okay shape, with an optimism level at about average for the past six months, though a few points off from where we would like to see them ideally,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s Vice-President and Chief Economist. “This month’s findings indicate that they’re holding back for better conditions before they make major investments in their buildings, equipment or vehicles.”

CFIB’s October Business Barometer® survey was completed on October 21st, before the 2019 Federal Election results were known and two days before the Government of Saskatchewan’s 2019 Throne Speech (October 23rd).

Provincial results:
Prince Edward Island posted the highest optimism level in the country at 69.4 index points, followed by Nova Scotia (66.8), Quebec (66.7) and New Brunswick (66.5). Manitoba (63.5) and Ontario (60.0) did not register much movement this month, but reported optimism levels above the national average. Newfoundland and Labrador gained 3.2 index points, but remained below the national average at 55.8. In the West, the outlook was gloomy, with Alberta (53.6) and British Columbia (52.8) coming in well below the national average. Saskatchewan had the lowest confidence level in the country at 50.0, after losing 3.1 index points over last month.

Highlights of the Saskatchewan Business Barometer for October:

• 25% of businesses in Saskatchewan say their overall state of business is good (43% nationally); 19% say it is bad (12% nationally);
• 9% plan to increase employment in the next 3 months (14% nationally) and 25% of Saskatchewan businesses plan to decrease full-time employment (14% nationally);
• Insufficient domestic demand is the main operating challenge (51%), followed by shortage of skilled labour (29%) and management skills, time constraints (19%);
• Major cost pressures for small business include: tax, regulatory costs (70%), fuel, energy costs (56%), wage costs (53%), and insurance costs (50%)

Read the October 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. October 2019 findings are based on 764 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received October 1 through the 21. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.5 per cent 19 times in 20.

To arrange an interview with Marilyn Braun-Pollon, Vice-President Prairie & Agri-business on the provincial results please call (306) 757-0000 or email You may follow CFIB Saskatchewan on Twitter @cfibsk.

To arrange an interview with Ted Mallett, CFIB’s Vice-President and Chief Economist on the national results please contact Milena Stanoeva at 647-464-2814 or

About CFIB
CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members (5,250 in Saskatchewan) across every sector 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