Business Barometer®: Small business confidence remains steady but subdued

October 31, 2019 – Small business confidence rose by only half an index point to 59.8 on the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (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.”

Overall, 43 per cent of owners say that their business is in a good state, while 12 per cent say it is in a bad state. Hiring plans are typically moderate this time of the year, with 14 per cent of owners planning to add full-time staff in the next three months and another 14 per cent planning to cut back.

An index level nearer to 65 indicates that the economy is growing at its potential. 

Provincial results: Eastern provinces lead in confidence

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.

Industry results: Transportation and agriculture trail other sectors

Transportation remained the least optimistic sector at 51.0 index points, closely followed by agriculture (51.1) and hospitality (53.7), the latter of which dropped 6.6 index points this month. Health services outpaced all other industries with a confidence level of 74.4, followed by information (64.4) and financial services (64.0). Professional services (62.0), manufacturing (61.7) and personal services (61.7) were also upbeat.

Read the October Business Barometer®

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.

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