Business Barometer®: Small business outlook points to sluggish recovery

August 27, 2020 – The 12-month small business outlook dipped 2 index points to 59.2 in August on the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Business Barometer®. The three-month outlook remains significantly lower at 40.9 index points.

“What ‘good performance’ means has changed for small business owners. Many may see just being here in 12 months as success,” said Ted Mallett, Chief Economist at CFIB. “Key performance indicators point to a sluggish but steady recovery, but capacity utilization remains low, particularly in the hospitality and arts and recreation sectors.” 

The proportion of businesses in bad shape (26 per cent) has dropped and is now on par with those who say they are in good shape (27 per cent). A quarter of businesses plan on reducing full-time staff in the next three months, while 13 per cent plan on hiring.

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

Provincial results: Quebec and Prince Edward Island remain least optimistic

Nova Scotia was the most upbeat province at 68.0 index points, followed by Alberta (64.3), Ontario (63.1) and Saskatchewan (62.9). Quebec (43.9), Prince Edward Island (47.9) and New Brunswick (56.5) were the most downcast provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador (60.6), Manitoba (59.3) and British Columbia (58.2) stuck close to the national average.

Industry results: Natural resources and agriculture maintain lowest placement

Natural resources (46.0) and agriculture (52.6) remained the least optimistic industries, followed by personal services (53.2). On the other side of the spectrum, wholesale (64.3) and transportation (62.7) businesses posted the highest results.

Read the August Business Barometer®

August 2020 findings are based on 687 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received from August 4 to 17. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.7 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