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Small business optimism holding steady

Wells Fargo poll finds that small business orders maintaining confidence in their financial situation, but finding workers a growing problem.

By American Trucker Staff

Small business optimism is “holding steady” in the fourth quarter, according to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index.

The overall index score dipped slightly to 103 in October – down from 106 in July, when it was the highest reading in a decade – the quarterly survey still finds that a majority of small business owners (71%) rated their current finances as “good” or very good.”

“It’s promising to see that, in general, business owners are maintaining a positive outlook as we move toward the end of the year,” noted Andy Rowe, head of customer segments for Wells Fargo, in a statement. “Despite this quarter’s modest decline, business owner optimism has improved 23 points year-over-year and is still holding steady at post-recession highs.”

He added that the other “measures” tracked by the index remained unchanged from the third quarter or only experienced “incremental shifts,” including:

  • Steady Revenues–Almost half (46%) of small business owners said their revenue increased over the past 12 months, unchanged from the previous two quarters and up from last year, when it was 37%.
  • Healthy Cash Flow – Continuing an upward trend, 65% of small business owners rated their company’s cash flow as very or somewhat good over the past 12 months, up from 63% from the previous two quarters and from 55% a year ago.
  • Ease of obtaining credit– Again this quarter, 39% said credit was very or somewhat easy to obtain over the past 12 months, up from 34% a year ago.
  • Plans to hire– About a third (32%) reported plans to hire in the next 12 months, compared to 27% in July.

Hiring remains a top challenge for small business owners, however, with 16% of those polled saying that hiring and retaining quality staff is their top concern, up from 13% in the third quarter and the highest reading on this measure since the question was added starting in 2013.

“Hiring the workers they need has clearly become a more pressing issue for small business owners,” noted Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo, in a statement.

“Labor markets have tightened around the country and many workers that had been employed part-time have moved on to full-time positions, making it particularly difficult to fill these positions right now,” he said.

While hiring is a top challenge, 32% of business owners reported plans to increase the number of jobs at their business in the next year – the second highest percentage in the 14-year history of the survey.

Other top concerns this quarter included attracting customers and finding new business (11%), taxes (11%), government regulations (11%), and financial stability/cash flow (8%).

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