First of six weekly Business Barometer updates by CFIB: Small firms more pessimistic; pockets of strength remain



    TORONTO, Oct. 9 /CNW/ - As turmoil in the investment banking sector in
the global economy spreads, pessimism is growing among small business owners
in this country, according to results from a survey conducted this week by the
Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Results show the Business
Barometer index falling considerably in only a few short weeks - to 91.0 in
the first week of October from 101.8 in CFIB's quarterly survey conducted
during early September. The index still remains measurably above its record
low of 85.0 taken in mid 1990, but below the 95.4 recorded in October, 2001.
    CFIB's chief economist Ted Mallett said that although the balance of
opinion has become more negative, pockets of strength remain. He pointed out
that five per cent of business owners are looking to perform 'much stronger'
in the next 12 months, while 23 per cent are expecting to be 'somewhat
stronger'. Mallett said only six per cent expect to be 'much weaker' in 12
months, with 31 per cent of business owners expecting to be 'somewhat weaker'.
    Mallett also said the survey results indicate that employment markets
appear to be reasonably stable for now, with 26 per cent anticipating adding
to full-time hiring levels in the next 12 months, while 17 per cent are
planning to cut back. These are weaker numbers than traditionally found among
employers from this survey, said Mallett, but he added that they appear to
reflect the importance small business owners place on maintaining skill sets
and experience within their workforces. "Cutting back on employment is
typically a last resort measure among small business owners," Mallett
explained. He also pointed out that credit concerns appear to have accelerated
since early September and the number of businesses reporting problems
accessing bank financing has risen to 25 per cent in early October, up from 18
per cent only one month earlier.
    It should be noted that these perspectives do not yet represent firm
plans by small business owners said Mallett. He added that developments in
financial and commodity markets are still too volatile and uncertain to allow
business owners to plan effectively. "Growth may be paused for the moment, but
longer term performance of small- and mid-sized enterprises will depend on how
markets settle out over the next few weeks," said Mallett.
    This special Barometer series is meant to fill the information vacuum for
business owners and policymakers looking for guidance. Usually conducted
quarterly, CFIB is running the Barometer survey on a weekly basis for six
weeks, having begun on October 6. These findings are based on the responses of
809 business owners surveyed between October 6 and 8, 2008. The survey was
sent to 8,000 randomly selected CFIB members on October 6, and conducted via a
secure web interface. Results can be considered accurate to within +/-/- 3.4
percentage points 19 times out of 20. The next survey will be sent to a new
list of 8,000 members on October 14, and results will be released on October
16, 2008. Further details are available at www.cfib.ca.





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