Business Barometer®: No improvement in sentiment as small businesses head into the fall

September 24, 2020 – The 12-month small business outlook saw no improvement in September, maintaining 59.2 index points on the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Business Barometer®. The three-month outlook was considerably lower at 39.7, a slight dip over last month.

“The gap between the 12-month and three-month outlooks tells us that many businesses are still facing significant difficulties,” said CFIB chief economist Ted Mallett. “Insufficient domestic demand is still the top factor limiting sales growth.”

Businesses were only operating at 69 per cent capacity for the month—a slight decrease from August’s 70 per cent level. For the second consecutive month, roughly as many businesses say they are in good shape as those who say they are in bad shape. Staffing intentions also remained largely unchanged since last month, with a quarter of businesses planning on reducing full-time staff in the next three months, while 15 per cent plan on hiring.

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

Provincial results: Eastern Canada and Atlantic see both highest and lowest results

Quebec (45.2) and Prince Edward Island (50.0) were the standouts at the low end of the index this month. Manitoba (54.0), Saskatchewan (55.0), Newfoundland and Labrador (55.8), Alberta (59.2) and British Columbia (59.3) stuck close to the national average. On the other end of the spectrum, New Brunswick (64.5), (Ontario (65.4) and Nova Scotia (65.8) were the most upbeat provinces.

Industry results: Health sector stands out as most optimistic

The industry outlook was mostly consistent, with health services standing out as the most optimistic sector at 68.6 index points, followed by arts and recreation (62.5) and construction (61.6). Natural resources (53.3) and agriculture (55.2) posted the lowest results.

Read the September Business Barometer®

September 2020 findings are based on 874 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received from September 2 to 14. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.3 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