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Sask small business optimism remains weak in April; costly carbon tax & Ag trade uncertainty taking toll on outlook

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Regina, April 25, 2019 - Today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its latest monthly Business Barometer®, which reveals optimism among small business owners in Saskatchewan remained weak in April with an index of 50.4, down slightly from 50.8 in March. The index is six points below the national average index of 56.7.

“Saskatchewan’s small business confidence stalled in April with an index of 50.4 – which is almost 15 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. “Hiring plans have also remained weak with 21 per cent of business owners planning lay-offs in the next three months (2nd highest in Canada, behind Alberta) compared to only 11 per cent who plan on hiring.”

“There is little doubt some of the major contributing factors are related to the costly federal carbon tax which was imposed on April 1st, the ongoing trade uncertainty as a result of China’s decision to stop buying canola just before spring seeding, not to mention the many areas in the province that remain very dry,” added Braun-Pollon. “As small firms continue to sit and wait to see what kind of complicated carbon tax rebate will be put in front of them, the federal government has loads of time and money to announce funding for Canada’s largest companies - like the $12 million to help Loblaws stores make their refrigerators and freezers more energy-efficient.”

Nationally, small business confidence remained muted in April, rising by less than one index point to 56.7. “Small businesses are still feeling under the weather, with most of the indicators we measure reflecting a modest performance at best,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice-president and chief economist. “In fact, confidence in nearly all provinces showed little movement this month.”

Provincial results: Most provinces stuck in neutral; Alberta remains least optimistic

Nova Scotia’s confidence level of 66.7 index points remained unchanged at the top spot, followed by Quebec, which lost 1.7 index points to 63.6. Prince Edward Island also gained an index point, rising to 60.7. Despite experiencing the biggest confidence increase and rising 2 index points to 44.1, Alberta remained the least optimistic province. New Brunswick experienced the greatest confidence loss, dropping 3.1 index points to 53.5.Ontario (59.1), British Columbia (55.5), Manitoba (50.9) and Saskatchewan (50.4) all lost less than one index point over last month’s results.

Highlights of the Saskatchewan Business Barometer for April:

  • 29% of businesses in Saskatchewan say their overall state of business is good (39% nationally); 15% say it is bad (11% nationally);
  • 11% plan to increase employment in the next 3 months (19% nationally) and 21% of Saskatchewan businesses plan to decrease full-time employment (13% nationally);
  • Insufficient domestic demand is the main operating challenge (50%), followed by shortage of skilled labour (25%) and management skills, time constraints (21%);
  • Major cost pressures for small business include: tax, regulatory costs (67%), fuel, energy costs (53%), insurance costs (50%) and wage costs (47%).

Read the April Business Barometer®

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. One normally sees an index level of between 65 and 70 when the economy is growing at its potential. April 2019 findings are based on 757 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received through April 15. 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 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 contact Milena Stanoeva at 647-464-2814 or [email protected]. You may also follow Ted on Twitter @cfibeconomics.

About CFIB
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. 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 cfib.ca.