Business Barometer®: Sentiment weakens as Alberta small businesses head into the fall

Calgary, September 24, 2020 – The 12-month Alberta small business outlook decreased 5 points in September to 59.2 index points on the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Business Barometer®. The three-month outlook was considerably lower at 41.4 points, a small increase 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.”

Alberta businesses were only operating at 66 per cent capacity for the month—a slight improvement from August’s 62 per cent level. Similar to last month, only 19 per cent of Alberta business owners say their business is in a good state, compared to 37 per cent who say their business is in bad shape. Hiring plans remain quite weak in Alberta with only 13 per cent of business owners planning to hire full-time staff in the next three months, while 24 per cent foresee cuts.  

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

“The 5-point drop in the 12-month outlook while the 3-month outlook only improved by 4% shows small business recovery has stagnated,” concluded Keyli Kosiorek, CFIB’s Alberta policy analyst. “Small businesses have not returned to normal sales or operations throughout the summer and the pace of recovery is not sustainable for many businesses. This underscores the need for more political action to talk about the importance of supporting small business.”

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 (59.6) 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 (55.6) 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 about the Alberta results, please contact Keyli Kosiorek, CFIB’s Alberta policy analyst at or 403-874-2618. For national results, please contact Ted Mallett, Chief Economist, or 647-464-2814

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, including 10,000 in Alberta. 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