Sask. small business optimism falls to three year low in January

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Today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its latest monthly Business Barometer®, which reveals optimism among small business owners in Saskatchewan fell to an index of 63.7 in January from 68.4 in December. This two month decline puts optimism at the lowest level in three years and moves Saskatchewan just below the national index of 64.0.

“Saskatchewan small business optimism fell back markedly in January and levels have not been this low since August 2010. It’s evident recent municipal property tax hikes and threats of future tax hikes are taking a toll on small business optimism,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s Vice-President, Prairie and Agri-business. “However it is encouraging to see hiring plans remain strong. We certainly hope the upcoming provincial budget and remaining municipal budgets do not raise taxes and further erode Saskatchewan’s competitive edge and level of optimism.”

While Canadian small business optimism rebounded this month, it’s not quite back at levels seen from July through November last year – the national index rose by 1.7 points to 64.0 this month, clawing back about half of the losses experienced this past December.

“The gain in this month’s Barometer is really fueled by Ontario, which is reporting optimism levels above the national average,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice-president and chief economist. “When the Business Barometer is anywhere between 65 and 70, that means the economy’s growing at its potential. This month, it looks like we’re getting closer.”

The national landscape shows a mixed picture from east to west. Newfoundland and Labrador held steady at 68.1, giving it the second highest reading. Prince Edward Island experienced a small improvement to 58.8, the best reading it has had since mid-2012. Little change was seen in Nova Scotia (58.1) and New Brunswick (56.6). In Quebec, there was a slight recovery by 2.4 points to an index of 56.2 – despite these gains, however, business sentiment still remains the weakest in the country. Ontario’s index is what drove up the national average, rising to 65.4 from 62.9. Looking west, losses were experienced by Manitoba (62.6), Saskatchewan (63.7) and Alberta (67.1), but B.C. holds strong at 71.2, remaining the highest index in the country and among the best readings over the past two and a half years.

Results and the full report are available at: www.cfib-fcei.ca/english/barometer

Saskatchewan highlights include:

· 56 per cent of businesses in Saskatchewan say the overall state of business is good (42 per cent nationally); 11 per cent say it is bad (12 per cent nationally).

· 29 per cent of Saskatchewan businesses plan to increase full-time employment in the next three to four months (25 per cent nationally) and nine per cent plan to decrease full-time employment (eight per cent nationally).

· The shortage of skilled labour (38 per cent) remains the main operating challenge: second highest in Canada, behind Alberta.

· Major cost pressures for small business include: wages (40 per cent); taxes/regulations (39 per cent); and fuel/energy (36 per cent).

Organizations: Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia New Brunswick Quebec Manitoba Canada

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