While we've seen an improvement in sentiment among "big business", small businesses continue to struggle. The NFIB details:
The National Federation of Independent Business Index of Small Business Optimism lost 1.2 points in March, falling to 86.8. The persistence of index readings below 90 is unprecedented in survey history.
“The March reading is very low and headed in the wrong direction,” said Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB chief economist. “Something isn’t sitting well with small business owners. Poor sales and uncertainty continue to overwhelm any other good news about the economy.”
The index has posted 18 consecutive monthly readings below 90. In March, nine of the 10 Index components fell or were unchanged from February’s not-so-great readings.
After a devastating period of employment reductions, employment change per firm hit the “zero line” in March. Since July 2008, employment per firm fell steadily each quarter, logging the largest reductions in survey history (35 years). The February reduction of just 0.1 per firm indicated a substantial slowdown in the bleeding, and the March reading of 0.0 confirms that workforce reductions have ended.
The frequency of reported capital outlays over the past six months fell two points to 45 percent of all firms, one point above the 35-year record low reached most recently in December 2009.
The net percent of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reporting higher nominal sales in the past three months improved 1 point to a net negative 25 percent. Widespread price cutting continued to contribute to reports of lower nominal sales.
The weak economy continued to put downward pressure on prices. Eleven percent of the owners reported raising average selling prices, but 29 percent reported average price reductions.
In March, earnings trends declined with a net negative 43 percent of owners reporting positive profit trends.
Regular NFIB borrowers (35 percent accessing capital markets at least once a quarter) continued to report difficulties in arranging credit.