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Business Barometer, September 2021

September  2021 SME business outlook

Entrepreneurs’ perspectives nosedived in September…

Canada's small business optimism over the short and long-term dropped sharply in September. Uncertainty around the outcome of the federal elections (most survey responses were received in the second week of September), and a mix of new restrictions and implications from vaccine passports can partly explain this significant fall of optimism among all provinces and sectors. 

CFIB’s Business Barometer® Short-term Index, which is based on 3-month forward expectations for business performance, dropped more than 12 points to 43.2. The long-term optimism index which is based on 12-month outlook dropped 9 points to 57.8. Both indices are back to levels seen at the beginning of this year. 

Measured on a scale between 0 and 100, an index above 50 means owners expecting their business’s performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance.

Ontario and Quebec have seen the largest drops in optimism both over the short and long term. All short term indices range currently from 43 to 50, with the exception of PEI which sits at 34.8 and BC at the other end at 54.9. 

All sectoral short-term outlooks worsened, with professional services, hospitality and construction plummeting the most. Long-term optimism dropped the most in retail and agriculture. 
…but other indicators show current business conditions are stable or improving.

The tumbling optimism among provinces and sectors has been registered despite other factors marginally improving or remaining constant. In fact, capacity utilization has increased slightly to 74.8 and most sectors have seen improvements except for some seasonal small drops in construction, natural resources, and transportation. 

At 3.7% and 2.6% respectively, 12-month price and wage plans remained at the elevated levels seen during the previous months. National employment plans are muted with 19% of small employers planning to hire or layoff in the next months.  


Andreea Bourgeois, Senior Analyst, [email protected]
Simon Gaudreault, Vice-president, National Research, [email protected]

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Topics in this Article: Economic Indicators

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