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Sask small business optimism improves again in February, but still third lowest in Canada

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Regina, February 22, 2018 - Today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its latest monthly Business Barometer®, which reveals optimism among small business owners in Saskatchewan improved again in February to an index of 56.8, up from in 53.6 in January, but still below the national average index of 62.4.

“While Saskatchewan's small businesses gained some optimism in February, its index of 56.8 is still third lowest in the country. In fact, Saskatchewan’s index is eight points below the range of index levels (65-70) normally associated when the economy is growing at its potential,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s Vice-President, Prairie & Agri-business.

Short-term hiring plans remained weak with only eight per cent of business owners looking to hire full-time staff (lowest in Canada) and 18 per cent planning to reduce staff in the next 3-4 months. The top cost pressures for Saskatchewan entrepreneurs continue to be tax and regulatory costs, cited by 69 per cent of respondents, which hit another record high in February (compared to 50 per cent in February 2017). “It is clear the tax hikes contained in last year’s budget are still negatively impacting the economy and hiring plans,” added Braun-Pollon.

“Given the number of ongoing challenges facing the province’s job creators, they will be looking to the upcoming federal and provincial budgets to address their top priorities and concerns,” noted Braun-Pollon. Fairer tax measures, and incentives for innovation and youth hiring, are at the top of small business owners’ priorities for the federal budget on February 27th. In Saskatchewan, top priorities for the provincial budget on April 10th include: Getting back to balance by continuing to reduce the size and cost of government through workforce attrition; providing tax relief by removing the PST from insurance premiums and reinstating the PST commission; and continuing to reduce red tape.

Canadian small business confidence moved sideways in February. The Index registered 62.4, virtually the same as January's 62.7 level, and is still slightly under performing compared to the spring of 2017 and 2010-14 norms.

“While there was continued healthy optimism and improvement in much of the country, weak sentiment in Ontario and Alberta is continuing to put a drag on the national average,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB vice-president and chief economist. “We’re also seeing weaker than normal employment plans for this time of year, while businesses expecting to cut their full time positions remains high.”

Quebec’s optimism remains top in the country after a 2.6 point jump to 73.9, an all-time high for the province. Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia saw major gains of 12.6 and 8.1 points respectively, while Alberta experienced the only drop in confidence, losing three points to fall to 56.3.


Confidence Index

Change from January




Nova Scotia



British Columbia



Prince Edward Island






New Brunswick









Newfoundland & Labrador






Results and the full report are available at:

Highlights of the Saskatchewan Business Barometer for February:
• 31% of businesses in Saskatchewan say their overall state of business is good (41% nationally); 17% say it is bad (13% nationally).
• 18% plan to decrease employment in the next 3-4 months (14% nationally) and only 8% of Saskatchewan businesses plan to increase full-time employment (17% nationally).
• Insufficient domestic demand remains the main operating challenge (49%), followed by shortage of skilled labour (29%), and management skills, time constraints (24%).
• Major cost pressures for small business include: tax, regulatory costs (69%), insurance costs (52%) and wage costs (49%).

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. February 2018 findings are based on 659 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received through February 12. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.8 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 110,000 members (5,250 in Saskatchewan) across every sector and region.