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Business Barometer, November 2019

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November 2019 SME business outlook survey results

Small business confidence took a noticeable hit in November. CFIB's Business Barometer® Index dropped almost 4 points to 56.1, sending it back to the depressed levels we had seen early in the year. The weakness was centred in the Prairies, where significantly fewer businesses are upbeat about their prospects over the next 12 months.

Optimism fell in 7 of 10 provinces, but the downdrafts in Alberta and Saskatchewan were the most significant. Alberta’s index dropped almost 9 points to 44.7 and Saskatchewan’s fell by almost 6 to 44.1. Indexes in Nova Scotia (62.7) and Manitoba (59.8) also fell by roughly four points each—and Ontario’s (58.3) by almost 2—but optimism in those provinces remained above the new national average. Business owner sentiment improved in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, sending those indexes above the 70 mark, though the measure can be volatile in small provinces. Little change was registered in Quebec (67.4) and Newfoundland and Labrador (56.1).

General malaise also showed up in 9 of the 13 major sector groups, with declining optimism showing up in resources, wholesale, health care, personal services and manufacturing. Improvements in retail, professional services and hospitality were modest in comparison. 

Forty-one per cent of owners report that their businesses are in good shape—in line with the long run averages—but those who say their businesses are in poor shape shot up to 18 per cent, the highest share seen since the resource crunch in 2016. Short term employment plans are usually weak this time of year because of seasonal effects, but this month they turned net negative with 17 per cent of business owners expecting to cut full-time staff versus only 15 per cent planning to add on.


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