Small business optimism is up, but half of small businesses still have job openings they can’t fill

There’s good news and bad news in the latest NFIB Small Business Optimism survey.

First off, there is still a lot of uncertainty out there: The NFIB Uncertainty Index decreased seven points to 69, the lowest level since January 2016.

“As the economy moves into the fourth quarter, small business owners are losing confidence in the strength of future business conditions,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “The biggest problems facing small employers right now is finding enough labor to meet their demand and for many, managing supply chain disruptions.”

Other key findings in the report:

  • Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months decreased by eight points to a net negative 28%. This indicator has declined 16 points over the past two months to its lowest reading since January 2013.
  • Fifty percent of owners reported job openings that could not be filled, an increase of one point from July and a 48-year record high for the second consecutive month.
  • Thirty percent of owners plan capital outlays in the next few months, up four points from July but still historically fairly weak.
  • Over 37% of owners report supply chain disruptions have had a significant impact on their business, 29% report a moderate impact, and 21% report a mild impact. Only 13% report no impact from recent supply chain disruptions.
  • A net 11% of owners view current inventory stocks as “too low” in August, down one point from July’s record high. A net 11% of owners plan inventory investment in the coming months, up five points from July.

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