Manitoba small biz optimism leads the country in February

According to the latest monthly Business Barometer®, optimism among small business owners in Manitoba remained very strong in February at an index of 66.9, compared to 67.1 in January. This index level is again above the national index of 62.9, and now ranks as the highest in the country. 

Small business confidence is above the five year average for Manitoba (61.2) and almost two points above 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 weak with equal shares of business owners looking to hire as to lay off (nine per cent). Thirty-eight per cent of business owners say their businesses are in good shape—a lower proportion than the national results.

Nationally, Canada's small businesses are quite a bit more upbeat in February. CFIB's monthly Business Barometer index rose 2.7 points to 62.9 this month--its best reading since January 2015. The destabilizing effects of the oil price crunch on business confidence now appear mostly behind us.

Regionally, although not quite back to normal mid-cycle levels, the index has been helped by improving perspectives in previously hard-hit Alberta (49.8) and Saskatchewan (57.7), which continue to close the gap with the rest of the country. Businesses are most upbeat in Manitoba and Quebec, with index levels at 66.9 and 66.6 respectively, however, optimism in the Maritimes, Ontario and BC are nearly as high--which suggests overall robustness returning to the economy. Businesses in Newfoundland & Labrador, however, remain pessimistic. Results and the full report are available at: Business Barometer.

Highlights of the Manitoba Business Barometer for February:

  • 38% of small businesses in Manitoba say their overall state of business is good (40% nationally); 11% say it is bad (17% nationally).
  • 9% of Manitoba small businesses plan to increase full-time employment in the next 3-4 months (18% nationally), and 9% plan to decrease employment (12% nationally).
  • Insufficient domestic demand remains the main operating challenge (37%), followed by management skills/time constraints (34%), and shortage of skilled labour (26%).
  • Major cost pressures for small business include: tax/regulatory costs (65%), wage costs (48%), insurance costs (46%), and fuel, energy costs (46%).