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Business Barometer, August 2019

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August 2019 SME business outlook survey results

Small business sentiment improved slightly in August, correcting most of the ground lost in July. CFIB’s Business Barometer® Index gained almost three points to hit 60.6—only the second time above the 60-mark this year.

The improvement was pretty widely distributed across the country, with higher indexes in 8 of 10 provinces. Ontario's index, a lacklustre 59.9 however, only gained back some of what was lost the month before. The most optimistic business owners continue to be in Quebec (67.7), Nova Scotia (67.2) and Prince Edward Island (66.7). Closely bunched at the bottom end of the list are owners in Newfoundland and Labrador (53.2), Alberta (54.3), Saskatchewan (55.4) and British Columbia (55.3). Sentiment in Manitoba (62.1) and New Brunswick (61.3) is running just above the national average.

The industry picture is mixed, with relatively little movement in the goods sectors and in retail, while information, professional services and health care businesses saw reasonably large improvements in their outlooks. The transport sector saw the largest decline.

Full-time hiring plans are fairly weak, but not much different from last month with only 16 per cent of owners saying they will be adding staff in the next few months versus 13 per cent who will be reducing headcounts. On the positive side, order books look stronger and concerns about customer demand dropping off. Wage and price plans remain stable near the two-per-cent mark.

Questionnaire

Ted Mallett, vice-president & chief economist, 416 222-8022
Andreea Bourgeois, senior analyst, 506 855-2526
Simon Gaudreault, senior director, national research, 514 861-3234