Business Barometer®: New year doesn’t bring new confidence for small business

January 31, 2019 – Small business confidence rose 2.5 points to 56.1 in the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Business Barometer® this month, but remained below fall 2018 levels.

“We’re seeing an uptick in confidence levels, but they are still well below what you would expect to see in a healthy, growing economy,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice president and chief economist. “The continued slump in business confidence is reflected in lower wage and price expectations. Businesses’ unfilled orders and accounts receivable are also taking a hit, falling to 2016 conditions.”

Staffing intentions are mixed, with 18 per cent of businesses planning to add full-time employees in the next three months, and 15 per cent planning to cut back on numbers. Overall, 41 per cent of owners say their business is in good shape, while 14 per cent say it is in bad shape.

An index level between 65 and 70 normally indicates that the economy is growing at its potential. 

Provincial results: Major confidence loss in Alberta

Alberta fell to the lowest confidence level in the country at 37.5 after losing 7.6 index points. Newfoundland & Labrador had the second-weakest confidence level at 47.9. Prince Edward Island and Quebec remained the most optimistic provinces at 63.5, with Nova Scotia coming in close at 63.1 after a major increase of 6.1 points. New Brunswick (61.3) and Ontario (60.4) posted confidence levels above the national average, while British Columbia (57.3), Manitoba (56.3) and Saskatchewan (55.2) were more closely aligned with the average.

Additional breakout results for Canada’s major municipalities for 2018 reveal that optimism tended to be higher in major urban centres in most provinces. Quebec and Prince Edward Island led the country in confidence throughout 2018 and confidence in major cities and regions in those provinces was evenly distributed.

Industry results: Confidence in natural resource sector falls

Natural resources lost 6.5 index points and became the least confident sector at 45.5 this month, followed by agriculture (50.5) and hospitality (51.7). Personal services was the most optimistic sector at 63.4, followed by professional services, which experienced the greatest confidence gain, rising 5.2 points to 61.6. After several low months, the retail sector experienced a healthy increase of 5.1 index points, but its level remains subpar at 56.6.

January 2019 findings are based on 930 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received through January 20. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.2 per cent 19 times in 20.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 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