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Business Barometer, December 2019

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December 2019 SME business outlook survey results

On the heels of a weak November reading, small business confidence ebbed further in December. CFIB’s Business Barometer® Index fell 0.6 points to 55.5—its lowest level recorded in 2019. The downshift underscores the economic anxiety being felt by business owners across the country.

Although December's numbers were only mildly negative, they were broadly based—with lower indexes found in 8 of 10 provinces. Already the weakest in the country, sentiment softened even further in Saskatchewan (40.0) and Alberta (38.3). Newfoundland and Labrador's index also shed a hefty seven points to 47.7.

Optimism in the Maritimes and Quebec also eased off, but remained at relatively healthy levels in the low- to mid-60s range. PEI remains the national exception with a very high reading of 74.1. Views in Manitoba (57.9) continue to track close to the national average. Ontario (62.5) and British Columbia (55.2) were the only provinces to register an improvement in business sentiment.

The industry picture was pretty similar to the geographic one, with optimism falling in 10 of 13 major sectors. Declining sentiment was led by businesses in the resources, retail, information and hospitality sectors. In contrast, improvements among construction, manufacturing and finance were only modest.

Only 38 per cent of owners report that their businesses are in good shape—the lowest proportion seen since late 2016—and those reporting to be in bad shape remains an elevated 16 per cent. Unfilled orders and accounts receivable performance has also dropped off, while hiring plans held steady, albeit weak.


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