Business outlook mixed as year ends

by Morinville Online Staff

A new Business Barometer report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business indicates small businesses wrapped up the 2022 calendar year with a mixed outlook. CFIB reports that despite ongoing challenges, December’s state of business was back to where it was three years ago.

In December of 2019, 38 per cent of businesses considered themselves in good shape, while 16 per cent felt they were in bad shape financially.  That number was the same in December of 2022 for those who felt they were in good stead, and slightly higher (17%) for those who felt they were in a bad place.

“Although it is encouraging to see some things going back to normal, such as how entrepreneurs perceive the overall state of their business, we have to recall that recovery, especially on the financial side, remains elusive for too many,” said CFIB Chief Economist and Vice-President of Research Simon Gaudreault in a media release. “Our Small Business Recovery Dashboard shows 52% still have below normal sales, and 58% carry outstanding pandemic debt, for an average of more than $114,000.”

The report indicates many businesses are operating at 80 per cent of capacity with supply chain pressures easing in many sectors, and while shortages of skilled or semi-/unskilled labour eased up recently, 49 per cent of businesses indicate they are having troubles attracting skilled labour and 36 per cent are having issues attracting semi-skilled and unskilled labour.

The Year Ahead

CFIB’s main small business indicator, their 12-month index, registered 50.9 index points in December of 2022, a modest 0.9 increase over November. Historically those numbers are seen in periods of recession. The CFIB report sees retail, agriculture and construction as the least optimistic, with levels below 50.

“The readings this month remain very low by historical standards. Businesses have been through the wringer, so it’s not surprising they’re entering the new year with caution and anxiety,” Gaudreault said. “However, on the macro level, there may be some cause for optimism as we see some of the inflationary pressures continue their downward trend or at least somewhat settle in the last few months.”

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