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Business Barometer, September 2019

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September 2019 SME business outlook survey results

Small business owners were a little less optimistic in September. CFIB’s Business Barometer® Index fell back by just over a point to land at 59.3, continuing with its up-and-down monthly pattern of late.

Provincial performance was pretty evenly mixed, with improvements in sentiment seen in five and declines seen in five regions. Again, the most optimistic business owners can be found in Quebec (68.8) and Nova Scotia (68.5), which both saw one-plus point improvements in their index levels. A bigger boost in New Brunswick this month to 63.7 brought that province the nation's third-highest index score.

Business owners in Ontario and Manitoba saw only slight improvements in their outlooks, but at 62.6 and 60.5 respectively, index levels still exceeded the national average. Optimism was a shade higher in Prince Edward Island (62.9), but was a result of an almost four-point decline from August index levels. Sentiment continued to be weak—and moving in the wrong direction—in the resource provinces. Index levels in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia are clustered in the low 50s.

The industry picture remained mixed as well, with sentiment in the professional services, health and information sectors over performing, while transportation, agriculture, retail and construction lagging the national average. Short-term hiring plans are fairly weak compared to this time last year, with only 16 per cent of business owners expecting to add staff in the next few months—versus 15 per cent who expect to cut numbers.

Unfilled orders and accounts receivables performance are also underwhelming compared to past estimates, while both wage and price plans have eased off to 1.7 per cent on an annual basis.



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