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Business Barometer, January 2020

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January 2020 SME business outlook survey results

Small business optimism has begun the new decade at pretty much where it left off the last one—in other words, weak. CFIB's Business Barometer® Index nudged down to 55.3 in January, basically the same as December's 55.5 which was already near a 12-month low.

Although economic anxieties expressed in Alberta and Saskatchewan are still having downward influences on the national sentiment, businesses in the rest of the country too are moderating their expectations for the year ahead. Seven of 10 provinces saw a decline in their index levels this month.

Once again, sentiment in Alberta (37.0), Saskatchewan (42.7) and Newfoundland & Labrador (48.6) trail the national average, though the latter two have seen a slight improvement over December results. British Columbia (56.4) also saw an improvement, but its index remains low compared to central Canada and the Maritimes. Business owners in Prince Edward Island (65.3) and Quebec (63.5) remain the most upbeat in the country but not to the same degree as before. Sentiment also slipped somewhat in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba, pushing their index levels below the 60 mark.

Forty per cent of owners say their businesses are in good shape, which is near the long-run average, but those in bad shape remain in elevated territory at 16 per cent. Orders and accounts receivables performance weakened off this month as well.

Taking a look at annualized index results for major cities and provincial regions shows that sentiment fell in most areas in 2019 relative to 2018. Local patterns, however, closely match the province-wide results we had been seeing throughout the year.


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