AMHERST - A report showing small businesses in Nova Scotia are more optimistic than their counterparts elsewhere in the country comes as no surprise to the president of a local business group.
"The general feeling I get around the community is that business owners remain concerned about the local and national economy," Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce president David McNairn said Thursday. "But small business owners here are still in wait-and-see mode."
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business study, which reflects how well business owners expect their firms to perform in the next year, indicates 25 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses see their shops' growth performance getting better in the next 12 months. Thirty-seven per cent predict a weaker showing.
"The stimulus package announced by the federal government recently contains some interesting initiatives in regards to infrastructure spending. However, we still have yet to see exactly how that initiative is going to be put into effect in the local community," McNairn said.
The CFIB report said business optimism among the country's small business owners is up slightly in the first quarter of 2009, but remains at record lows.
According to the business barometer tracked quarterly by the CFIB, national optimism sits at 87.3, up from 86.1 in December 2008.
In Nova Scotia, it rose from 88.5 to 93.1. Most of Atlantic Canada sits above the national level.
Only eight per cent of businesses in this province plan to decrease employment levels in the next year; the lowest number in the country according to the report.
"It doesn't seem that this area has been hit as hard as say Ontario," the chamber president said.
Leanne Hachey, CFIB's Atlantic vice-president, agreed.
"For us in Atlantic Canada these numbers allow us to take a step back and appreciate that the recession hasn't hit us as hard as other parts of the country."
Hachey added the study numbers are also a good sign that the economic freefall might be slowing.
"We not jumping up and down with cries of joy over this but what we hope this indicates is that maybe we've turned a corner," she said.
When combined with promising retail figures from January and a recent rally on the stock market, Hachey said the study numbers add to growing optimism across the business sector.
"These are signs that things are, hopefully, not getting any worse."