Monthly Business Barometer®

March 2024 Results

Small business optimism in Canada

CFIB’s Business Barometer® long-term index, which is based on 12-month forward expectations for business performance, has seen a moderate decrease in March, to reach 52.7. The short-term optimism index, based on a 3-month outlook, gained one point and reached 52.6. Both levels are below historical averages but better than the previous months and similar to last summer readings.

12-month and 3-month small business confidence index, Canada


Provincial picture

Most provinces have improved modestly their long-term outlook. Ontario (55.7) has gained slightly in optimism and is the 2nd most confident province after Nova Scotia (59.3). Confidence in  Quebec (49.2) and New Brunswick (49.0) is trending upwards but at slow pace; both provinces are sitting just shy of the 50 mark.   

Sectoral picture

The sectoral picture is more mixed. Some sectors have registered gains (information, arts and recreation +10 points, transportation +5.8 points, professional services +5 points) while others have seen decreases (retail -5.3 points, financial services -3.2 points). The information, arts and recreation sector, followed by the professional services and the finance, insurance and real estate industry are leading in terms of long-term confidence.   

Inflation indicators

Average price increase plans for the next 12 months dropped 0.1 to 2.7%, trending downwards at an even pace. Average wage increase remained largely unchanged at 2.6%. The share of firms planning to make significant price increases (of 5% or more) is decreasing steadily. For more information about distribution of price and wage increases, see the additional document.   
  Future price and wage increase plans


Demand indicators

Half of small businesses (51%) are reporting insufficient domestic/foreign demand as main limitation on sales or production growth. The trend has been on an upwards slope for the past 12 months. 

Main costs on business

The share of businesses citing insurance costs as a challenge has increased slightly (69%)– more than two-thirds of businesses see it as number one cost affecting their operations. Borrowing costs are affecting twice as many businesses as in the previous twelve months.    

Factors limiting sales or production growth - current levels and trend, March 2024


Major input cost constraints - current levels and trend, March 2024



March findings are based on 614 responses from a stratified random sample of CFIB members to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received from March 5 to the 12. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 4.0 per cent 19 times in 20. Every new month, the entire series of indicators is recalculated for the previous month to include all survey responses received in that previous month. Measured on a scale between 0 and 100, an index above 50 means owners expecting their business’s performance to be stronger over the next three or 12 months outnumber those expecting weaker performance. An index level near 65 normally indicates that the economy is growing at its potential.

The next Business Barometer will be released on April 25, 2024.

Andreea Bourgeois, Director of Economics

Simon Gaudreault, Vice-President, Research and Chief Economist

Topics in this Article: