Concept of success and failure with businessman on statistics bar

Research by the Toronto-based Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found a slight increase in small business confidence this month, but it remains relatively low.

The CFIB’s Business Barometer is at 56.1 for January 2019, and the organization notes that an index level between 65 and 70 is what’s expected if the economy is growing at its potential.

“We’re seeing an uptick in confidence levels, but they are still well below what you would expect to see in a healthy, growing economy,” Ted Mallett, vice president and chief economist, says in a statement. “The continued slump in business confidence is reflected in lower wage and price expectations. Businesses’ unfilled orders and accounts receivable are also taking a hit, falling to 2016 conditions.”

These numbers echo survey results released yesterday by CPA Canada, which found that Canadian CPAs are at their least optimistic about the economy since 2016.

Across the country, CFIB says, 41% of owners say their businesses are in “good shape,” while 14% have a negative outlook. Eighteen percent of businesses plan to hire full-time staff in the next three months and 15% plan to cut back.

Alberta’s small business owners are the least confident in the country (the index there lost 7.6 points and is now at 37.5), as optimism about the natural resource sector drops. The most confident are in Prince Edward Island and Quebec. CFIB also found that business confidence was higher in major metropolitan areas.