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Small business confidence hits lowest levels ever

November 25, 2022  By PrintAction Staff

Small business confidence took a dip in the lead-up to the holiday shopping season and looking beyond it, according to the latest Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Business Barometer. The optimism index for the next three months dropped to 43.8, while the 12-month index dropped to 50.0 index points. The 12-month index level is the lowest recorded since 2009, outside of the 2008/2009 and 2020 recessions.

“The situation remains sobering for many small businesses. High costs of doing business, a lack of staffing and ongoing interest rate hikes make it harder for them to know for sure where their business is headed,” said Simon Gaudreault, chief economist and vice-president of research at CFIB. “The short-term and 12-month outlooks for retail, in particular, have been quite low for the past several months, which is not what we expect to see in the lead-up to the holiday shopping season.”

Overall, 38 per cent of businesses say they are in good shape and 18 per cent say they are in bad shape, a net positive of +20 per cent that is down from the +22 per cent of October, but better than the +17 per cent of November 2021. Average price increase plans slipped to 3.9 per cent, continuing their downward trend since June, while wage increase plans saw an uptick to 3.4 per cent and remained historically elevated. Full-time staffing plans are in the negative, with slightly more businesses (18 per cent) looking to lay off than to hire (17 per cent) over the next few months, which is in line with seasonal patterns.


Borrowing costs continue their upwards trend, causing difficulties for 35 per cent of business owners, compared to 16 per cent in November 2021. Fuel and energy is the top factor limiting business growth for 71 per cent of businesses, while shortages of skilled or semi-/unskilled labour continue to limit business growth for 53 per cent and 38 per cent of businesses, respectively.

Across Canada, outside of the long-term outlook for PEI (60.9) and, to a certain extent, Manitoba (57.9), virtually all readings are in an ultra-low territory that is usually visited around recession periods. Ontario remains the least optimistic province overall, with a last place for the short-term outlook and a second-last place for the 12-month outlook.

“Small businesses are feeling the pinch of a slowing economy and higher than ever costs of doing business and for many the usual boost they expect to see from holiday sales is not looking as promising this year,” said Andreea Bourgeois, director of economics at CFIB.

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