Business Barometer®: Small business confidence takes a nosedive in April

Toronto, April 25, 2024 - The long-term confidence index for the next 12 months dropped 5.4 points down to 47.5. This indicator decreased for a second consecutive month, according to the latest Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Business Barometer®. 

Most provinces lost ground or remained constant. Ontario (-6.7 index points to 49.2) and Saskatchewan (-7.0 to 47.6) lost most of their optimism this month. 

“Small business owners are trying to get back on their feet, but they keep getting knocked down to the ground. The April 1 carbon tax increase, minimum wage hikes in certain provinces, and persistent lack of demand have all negatively impacted their confidence levels for the coming year,” said Andreea Bourgeois, CFIB’s director of economics. 

Typically, businesses are looking to hire this time of year ahead of the summer season, but small firms have timid full-time hiring intentions in April, with 16% expecting to hire in the next three or four months and 11% looking to lay off. Small businesses’ average price and wage increase plans also climbed to 3.2% and 2.9%, respectively. 

“The 0.5% month-over-month growth in the planned average price increase for the next 12 months is concerning. While one month doesn’t set a trend, it shows us the negative headspace many business owners are in right now. With recent payroll increases and high wage costs affecting—yet again—a record share (68%) of businesses, it makes sense that they are less likely to hire and expect to raise prices,” Bourgeois added. “The recent carbon tax hike may also force some firms to pass the additional costs onto consumers.” 

The lack of demand has been steadily increasing since Q2 2023 and continues to be the top factor limiting business growth and sales for over half (52%) of small firms in April. A special analysis on insufficient demand in  CFIB’s latest Main Street Quarterly revealed that it is at the highest level since the pandemic started, affecting half of SMEs. 

High insurance costs are also causing challenges for 72% of businesses, having reached the highest point in decades and way above its historical average of 49%. 

“The situation is not looking good for many SMEs this month,” Bourgeois concluded. “While the Bank of Canada’s restrictive policy helps cool inflation, it’s negatively impacting businesses’ ability to operate and compete.” 

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

April Business Barometer®: April findings are based on 657 responses from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received from April 2 to 17. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.8%, 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.

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