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Business Barometer, May 2019

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May 2019 SME business outlook survey results

Small businesses confidence improved a little in May. CFIB’s Business Barometer® Index gained three points to hit 59.7 this month, its best reading so far this year. This measure of sentiment is now narrowly above its four-year average for the first time since last November, although it still trails 2010-14 norms by five-or-so points.

We saw confidence improve in 7 of 10 provinces, led by Alberta with a 7.7-point gain. Index levels in the four Western provinces are now clustered narrowly between Manitoba’s 52.3 high and Saskatchewan’s 49.1 low. Views in Newfoundland & Labrador did not change much this month and their index of 49.4 remains near national lows. Optimism is notably better in the Maritimes and Central Canada. Prince Edward Island business owners are the most upbeat at 66.3, while those in Quebec (64.7) and Nova Scotia (64.4) are not far behind. Indexed views in Ontario (61.7) kept pace, remaining a couple of points above the national average. Although New Brunswick’s index also improved, sentiment there remains sub par.

There was a little more mix in outlooks by sector, which showed improvements in seven and declines in six broad industry groupings. The least upbeat business owners are in information, arts and recreation (43.3), agriculture (46.2) and natural resources (46.2), while the most upbeat are in the health care (64.7) sector. Index levels in the remaining industry groups, however, are closely ranged near the national average.

Other indicators covered in the survey show broad-based stability. Forty-three per cent of business owners consider their firms to be in good shape, versus 14 per cent in bad shape. Short-term hiring plans, which tend to have a seasonal bump this time of year, show 20 per cent of owners expecting to add full-time staff in the next few months versus 12 per cent who plan to cut back. Twelve-month future wage and pricing plans are both at 1.8 per cent, while new orders, accounts receivable and capital investment are well within normal readings.


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