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Business Barometer, July 2019

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July 2019 SME business outlook survey results

Small business optimism took a step backward in July. CFIB’s Business Barometer® Index dropped more than 3 points from June’s reading to land at 57.8 this month. Although not as low as some of the estimates from earlier in the year, it suggested the improving sentiment we saw in May and June was too fast to be sustainable.

The cause in the negative swing was almost entirely centred in Ontario, which went into full retrograde in July, trimming 6.6 points off its index value to 56.0. In contrast, optimism showed relatively little change in other provinces, save Manitoba and New Brunswick which actually saw four-point increases in their indexes to a modestly healthy 60.1 and 61.2 respectively. 

The most optimistic business owners in Canada remain those in Quebec and Prince Edward Island, both at 67.0. The least upbeat are still those in Newfoundland and Labrador, but their index stood pat at 50.0. Despite its index losing a point or two, optimism remained above the national average in Nova Scotia (62.5). Sentiment, however, is still lagging in British Columbia (53.3), Saskatchewan (54.3) and Alberta (57.2).

The industry mix remains fairly balanced, but big declines in optimism among retailers and professionals weighed the sector average down. There was no measurable change in the reported state of business health among survey respondents; 41 per cent continued to say their firms were in good shape compared to 14 per cent in poor shape. Similarly, wage and price plans remain stable near the two-per-cent mark. Full-time hiring plans did take a hit this month, with only 16 per cent of owners saying they will be adding staff in the next few months versus 14 per cent who will be reducing headcounts.


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