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Sask small biz optimism falls in March; 17% planning layoffs

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Regina, March 30, 2017 - Today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its latest monthly Business Barometer®, which reveals optimism among small business owners in Saskatchewan fell in March to an index of 56.3, down 1.4 points from 57.7 in February, and is still well below the national average index of 62.9.

“After three consecutive months of slight improvements, it is concerning to see small business optimism in Saskatchewan fall to an index of 56.3 in March. This is almost nine points below the range of index levels (65-70) normally associated when an economy is growing at its potential,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s Vice-President, Prairie & Agri-business. “Hiring plans also weakened in March, and tipped towards negative with only 11 per cent of business owners looking to hire full-time, while 17 per cent are planning to layoff staff.”

CFIB’s Barometer survey was completed on March 20th, two days before the 2017 Saskatchewan Budget. “However, since the budget was delivered, we have heard from hundreds of small business owners concerned about the impact the $908 million tax hikes will have on their overall competitiveness,” said Braun-Pollon. “They worry these massive tax hikes will not only increase the overall cost of doing business, but also further erode Saskatchewan’s small business confidence.”

Nationally, Canada's small business optimism remained steady in March, holding on to the gains it had posted a month earlier.The index remains at 62.9 points—the same as in February and 2.7 points above January’s reading. 

“Although its trend is on the upswing, confidence still has a way to go before reaching historical norms,” said Ted Mallett, Chief Economist at CFIB. “Ideally, we’d like to see a reading get up to between 65 and 70 points, levels we haven’t seen since 2014. Still, overall trends across most of the country indicate a consistent but gradual move in the right direction.”

The national index has been supported by steadily improving perspectives in Alberta (55.5) as well as modest gains to indexes in Ontario (65.6), British Columbia (64.9) and Nova Scotia (65.9). Small business optimism in Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick is in similar territory (65.7, 64.5 and 63.8 respectively) but saw slight declines from their February levels. After three-consecutive monthly increases, Saskatchewan’s index dropped slightly to 56.3, while bigger declines were seen in Prince Edward Island (58.6) and Newfoundland and Labrador (42.2). Results and the full report are available at: Business Barometer

Highlights of the Saskatchewan Business Barometer for March:

  • 35% of businesses in Saskatchewan say their overall state of business is good (42% nationally); 16% say it is bad (13% nationally).
  • 11% of Saskatchewan businesses plan to increase full-time employment in the next 3-4 months (21% nationally) and 17% plan to decrease employment (11% nationally).
  • Insufficient domestic demand remains the main operating challenge (51%), followed by shortage of skilled labour (20%), and limited space (17%).
  • Major cost pressures for small business include: tax, regulatory costs (47%), wage costs (47%) and insurance costs (41%).

Measured on a scale of 0 and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. According to past results, index levels normally range between 65 and 70 when the economy is growing at its potential. March 2017 findings are based on 730 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received through March 20. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.6 per cent 19 times in 20.

To arrange an interview with Marilyn Braun-Pollon, Vice-President Prairie & Agri Business on the provincial results please call (306) 757-0000, 1-888-234-2232 or email [email protected]. You may follow CFIB Saskatchewan on Twitter @cfibsk.

To arrange an interview with Ted Mallett, Vice-President & Chief Economist on the national results, please call (416) 222-8022 or email [email protected]. You may also follow Ted on Twitter @cfibeconomics.

Business Barometer® is a monthly publication of the CFIB and is a registered trademark.

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members (5,250 in Saskatchewan) across every sector and region.