Small Business Confidence Plunges

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by: David Goldman

Two-thirds of job creation in postwar recoveries came from small business. And small business is in terrible shape. The only comprehensive poll of small business sentiment is the Discover Small Business Index. Its most recent poll shows a collapse of confidence between October and November, with a majority of small business owners having cash flow problems.

Learn more about the research methodology for the Small Business Watch.

November Highlights:

Economic confidence among America’s small business owners plummeted in November, as more owners cited serious concerns about cash flow and saw economic conditions for their own businesses getting worse. The Discover Small Business Watch index fell 12 points in November to 76.5 from 88.5 in October.

  • The mood of small business owners generally has soured in November for three straight years, as economic confidence dropped from October to November in 2007 and 2008. The November 2008 index of 67.5 is the low point for the Watch since it started in August 2006.
  • 52 percent of owners say they have experienced cash flow issues in the past 90 days, up from 44 percent in October. Forty-one percent of owners say they have not experienced cash flow issues, which is the lowest response in this category since the Watch began. The remaining 6 percent said they weren’t sure.
  • 53 percent of small business owners see conditions getting worse in the next six months, up from 43 percent in October; while 19 percent report that conditions are improving, a sharp decline from 29 percent in October; 23 percent see conditions as the same, and 5 percent weren’t sure.
  • 62 percent of small business owners rate the economy as poor, an increase from 55 percent in October; 30 percent rate it as fair, and 8 percent say it is good or excellent.
  • 53 percent of small business owners think the overall economy is getting worse, up from 44 percent in October but still significantly lower than the 69 percent of owners who felt that way in February 2009, the last time the Watch index was this low. For November; 28 percent say the economy is getting better, down from 35 percent in October; 16 percent see it staying the same, and 3 percent are not sure.

Only 11 percent of Small Businesses Expecting Increased Sales This Year

  • Small business owners have a glum outlook on the holiday season: Only 11 percent expect to see more business this year over last, while 46 percent of them are expecting less business than last year, an increase over the 40 percent who said the same in November 2008; 39 percent anticipate 2009 sales will be about the same as last year, and 4 percent weren’t sure.
  • For many small business owners, the holiday season is not necessarily their busiest time. A majority of owners, 56 percent, say that the holiday season falls somewhere in between being their busiest and the slowest time of year, 29 percent say this is their slowest time, and 13 percent say it is the busiest.