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Record provincial lows reduce small business confidence to recession-era levels

Toronto, March 31, 2016 – Canada’s small business confidence continued its downward track in March, dropping 2.4 points to 52.3, its lowest level since March 2009.

“This month was marked by decline almost across the board,” said Ted Mallett, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) chief economist. “We saw provincial record lows in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Alberta. In total, nine out of 10 provinces, and nine of 13 industry sectors saw a confidence drop.”

On a scale between 0 and 100, an index above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. One normally sees an index level of between 65 and 70 when the economy is growing at its potential.

British Columbia was the only province to see a confidence increase in March, climbing one point to a modest 62.5. Alberta nearly stopped its downward spiral, dropping only 0.2 points to 26.5, but still remains the weakest in the country by far. The energy market continues to hammer Saskatchewan, which fell five points to a provincial record low 47.0. Manitoba plummeted seven points to 54.8. Ontario dropped three points to 57.0, while Quebec slipped to 65.0. Newfoundland and Labrador saw another harsh drop, falling six points to 47.1, a record low for the province. Nova Scotia fell a point to 65.8 but remains the strongest in Canada. New Brunswick’s confidence fell eight points to 53.2. Prince Edward Island lost six points to 59.1.

The natural resources, construction and agricultural sectors remain the weakest, while the information and arts, and hospitality sectors are strongest.

“Hiring plans are starting to pick up, which fits established seasonal patterns,” added Mallett. “However, the 12 per cent who expect to cut staff levels is high compared to past March readings. Furthermore, there is a sharp decline in the reported state of accounts receivables and new orders so far this year.”

March, 2016 findings are based on 699 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received through March 21. Findings are considered accurate to +\- 3.7 per cent 19 times in 20.

To arrange an interview with Ted Mallett please contact Ryan Mallough at 416-222-8022, 647-464-2814 or [email protected].

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.

March 31, 2016

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