Why Is Small Business Optimism So Shaky Heading into 2019?


Although tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks this year fueled small-business optimism to hit its highest level in decades, the latest Small Business Survey from CNBC, released last week, reveals that small-business confidence is starting to cool. After hitting a record high in Q3, the Small Business Confidence index declined from 62 to 59 in the fourth quarter, led by small moves lower in components across the board. This new data underscores the idea that while sentiment is at or near record highs, challenges still remain for Main Street. The Survey, conducted from Nov. 19–29, polled more than 2,100 small-business owners.


The dip in the Small Business Survey comes at a time when the markets are punctuated by bouts of volatility and economic concerns loom over trade tensions and the shortage of skilled workers. The data supports other small declines in metrics, from the National Federation of Independent Business’s monthly read on small-business sentiment in September and October, as well as trends around hiring and labor from Bank of America and Wells Fargo.


Unemployment is down, small businesses are growing, but there are still some very troubling trends. The rate of small-business start-ups and small-business hiring continues to lag, one-quarter of small firms still cannot get the financing they need, and few can afford a good health insurance plan. For the first time in six quarters, sentiment around business conditions also has taken a slight dip, from 58 percent in Q3 to 55 percent in Q4, although that read is still up 11 percentage points year-over-year, according to the survey. Just 34 percent of small-business owners now say that tax-policy changes will have a positive effect for them in the next 12 months, down from a high of 46 percent kicking off the year, indicating some of the positive sentiment surrounding the law may have waned. Really, it’s more of a slip, not a fall. It’s not a huge drop, and still up year-over-year. Hiring expectations are about the same, but some of the improvements seen with changes to tax and trade policy were not sustained throughout the course of the year.

More small-business owners are questioning the positives trade policies will have on their bottom lines. Sixteen percent of small-business owners say they expect changes in trade policy will have a positive effect on their businesses in the next 12 months, a new low for the survey. What’s more, 1 in 5 business owners surveyed do business with China, and they were nearly twice as likely as others to expect a negative impact on their business.


Uncertainty can cause stress and anxiety, but as lower middle market experts, SA Capital Partners knows how to traverse the economic ebbs and flows with decades of experience in the small business world. Trust in SA Capital Partners for a guide through the uncertain to a fully realized dream come true with your economic and business aspirations.


About SA Capital Partners:

SA Capital Partners is an innovative financial services firm that specializes in mergers & acquisitions advisory and capital raising for lower middle market businesses. We aspire to give all the tools necessary to complete any transaction. SA Capital Partner’s financial services industry specialists provide comprehensive, integrated solutions to banking transactions. Our breadth of services and industry knowledge allow us to understand each client’s unique business needs. Our goal is to make all financial services available to every small business.

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