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Manitoba small biz optimism decreases slightly in March, but remains strong

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According to the latest monthly Business Barometer®, optimism among small business owners in Manitoba decreased in March to an index of 64.5, compared to 66.9 in February. This index level is again above the national index of 62.9.  

Small business confidence is above the five year average for Manitoba (61.2) and just below the range of index levels (65-70) that is normally associated with an economy that is growing at its potential.

However, short-term hiring plans still remain muted with 10 per cent of business owners looking to hire and six per cent looking to lay off. Forty-one per cent of business owners say their businesses are in good shape— a lower proportion than the national results.

Nationally, Canada's small business optimism remained steady in March, holding on to the gains it had posted a month earlier, according to Business Barometer. The index remains at 62.9 points—the same as in February and 2.7 points above January’s reading. 

The national index has been supported by steadily improving perspectives in Alberta (55.5) as well as modest gains to indexes in Ontario (65.6), British Columbia (64.9) and Nova Scotia (65.9). Small business optimism in Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick is in similar territory (65.7, 64.5 and 63.8 respectively) but saw slight declines from their February levels. After three-consecutive monthly increases, Saskatchewan’s index dropped slightly to 56.3, while bigger declines were seen in Prince Edward Island (58.6) and Newfoundland and Labrador (42.2). Results and the full report are available at: Business Barometer.

Highlights of the Manitoba Business Barometer for March:

  • 41% of small businesses in Manitoba say their overall state of business is good (42% nationally); 10% say it is bad (13% nationally).
  • 10% of Manitoba small businesses plan to increase full-time employment in the next 3-4 months (21% nationally), and 6% plan to decrease employment (11% nationally).
  • Insufficient domestic demand remains the main operating challenge (42%), followed by management skills/time constraints (32%), and shortage of skilled labour (25%).
  • Major cost pressures for small business include: tax/regulatory costs (63%), wage costs (52%), insurance costs (42%), and fuel, energy costs (42%).