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Business Barometer: Sask small business optimism on the rise in March; above national average for 1st time since early 2016

Regina, March 29, 2018 - Today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its latest monthly Business Barometer®, which reveals optimism among small business owners in Saskatchewan rose in March to an index of 62.0, up from 56.8 in February.  

“It is encouraging to see that Saskatchewan’s small business optimism improved for the third consecutive month and gained a healthy five points in March. Importantly, Saskatchewan’s index is above the national average (60.7) for the first time since early 2016,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s Vice-President, Prairie & Agri-business. “Some of the contributing factors likely included the provincial government’s recent decision to reinstate  the PST exemption for agriculture, life and health insurance premiums, as well as the much-needed moisture in most areas of the province.”

However, employment plans remained weak with only 14 per cent of business owners looking to hire and 19 per cent are planning to reduce staff in the next 3-4 months. Entrepreneurs’ concerns about taxes and regulatory costs also hit another record high of 70 per cent, compared to 51 per cent in March 2017. “That’s why in order to help protect businesses’ hard-earned investments, we are urging the Saskatchewan government to stand up again for small businesses and NOT follow the federal government in limiting businesses’ access to the small business deduction based on passive investment revenue,” added Braun-Pollon. “It will also be important for the Saskatchewan budget on April 10th to include other measures that will continue to improve our business climate.” 

Canadian small business confidence is going out like a lamb in March, dropping two points to 60.7. The monthly index continues to underperform compared to the spring of 2017 and 2010-14 norms.

“While there was improvement in many parts of the country, Ontario and Alberta are continuing to weigh down the national average as small business confidence there continues to sputter,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB vice-president and chief economist. “We are seeing a boost in short term hiring plans, which is normal for this time of year; however, the effect is weaker than it has been in the past – likely as more businesses struggle with wage pressures and a tighter labour supply.”

Provincial Results: Nova Scotia confidence hits post-recession high

Nova Scotia jumped three points to reach a confidence score of 75.0, almost 15 points above the national average and a post-recession high for the province. Saskatchewan saw the largest monthly increase at 5.2 points, boosting confidence levels to 62.0. Newfoundland & Labrador saw the biggest drop with an index of 52.7, followed by British Columbia (65.9), Manitoba (61.2) and Ontario (57.1).

Province Confidence Index Change from February
Nova Scotia 75.0 +3.0
Quebec 72.6 -1.3
Prince Edward Island 66.0 +1.0
British Columbia 65.9 -3.6
New Brunswick 62.5 +3.4
Saskatchewan 62.0 +5.2
Manitoba 61.2   -2.0
Ontario 57.1 -1.9
Alberta 56.3 0.0
Newfoundland & Labrador 52.7 -3.8

Read the March Business Barometer®

Highlights of the Saskatchewan Business Barometer for March:

  • 35% of businesses in Saskatchewan say their overall state of business is good (38% nationally); 15% say it is bad (12% nationally). 
  • 19% plan to decrease employment in the next 3-4 months (13% nationally) and only 14% of Saskatchewan businesses plan to increase full-time employment (19% nationally). 
  • Insufficient domestic demand remains the main operating challenge (48%), followed by shortage of skilled labour (30%), and management skills, time constraints (24%).
  • Major cost pressures for small business include: tax, regulatory costs (70%), insurance costs (53%) and wage costs (49%).

Measured on a scale of 0 and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. March 2018 findings are based on 754 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received through March 20. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.6 per cent 19 times in 20.

To arrange an interview with Marilyn Braun-Pollon, Vice-President Prairie & Agri-business on the provincial results please call (306) 757-0000, 1-888-234-2232 or email [email protected]. You may follow CFIB Saskatchewan on Twitter @cfibsk. 

To arrange an interview with Ted Mallett, Vice-President & Chief Economist on the national results, please call (416) 222-8022 or email [email protected]. You may also follow Ted on Twitter @cfibeconomics. 

About CFIB
CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members (5,250 in Saskatchewan) across every sector and region.

March 29, 2018

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