Business Barometer®: Half of business owners say their firm is in a bad state in May

Toronto, May 14, 2020 – The beginning of May brought some improvements in small business confidence, which gained 6.8 index points to 53.2 on the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Business Barometer®, though half of owners still say their firm is in bad shape.

“Small business owners are settling into the new normal and finding ways to cope and adapt,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice-president and chief economist. “The prospect of restrictions loosening in some parts of the country is also bringing some hope, but many are still considering layoffs and holding off on investments. Insufficient domestic demand remains the biggest factor limiting sales amid the pandemic.”

Half of business owners said their business is in bad shape, while 14 per cent estimated that it is in good shape. Additionally, 15 per cent of business owners said they will hire fulltime staff in the next three months, while 39 per cent would cut back. These indicators are an improvement over last month’s results, though they are still low.

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

Provincial results: Quebec still the least optimistic province

Quebec continued to post the lowest level of optimism at 36.4, followed by Saskatchewan (44.8), Prince Edward Island (47.6) and Newfoundland and Labrador (50.0). New Brunswick was the most upbeat province at 59.5, followed by Manitoba (57.3), Ontario (57.2) and British Columbia (56.7). Alberta (55.3) and Nova Scotia (52.7) saw results near the national average.

Industry results: Natural resources and agriculture trail other industries by a wide margin

The natural resources sector fell to the lowest confidence level at 18.2, followed by agriculture (27.3), with large declines in both sectors. Other industries posted results in the 40s and 50s, with most seeing improvements. Businesses in construction (57.5) were the most upbeat, followed by health services (56.3) and personal services (56.0).

Changes in Barometer release schedule

Due to rapidly evolving economic conditions impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, CFIB has increased the frequency of its Business Barometer Survey from monthly to bi-monthly through June 2020. CFIB will release results for end of May on May 28.

Read the Flash May Business Barometer®

Early May 2020 findings are based on 1,201 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received on May 5 and 6. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 2.8 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