Economic / Future Trends

Small business confidence falls to 7-year low, according to Sept. 2019 WSJ/Vistage survey

Economic confidence among small firms fell to the lowest level recorded since November 2012, according to a survey conducted by Vistage and the Wall Street Journal.

The survey, conducted September 9-16, captured input from 802 CEOs and other leaders of small businesses across the United States. The data was used to calculate the WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index, which was 91.3 in September — down from last month’s 92.9 and last year’s 110.9.

Further analysis of the September data revealed that the largest declines were in the strength of the economy:

  • About 41% of small-firm CEOs said they expect the economy to worsen in the year ahead, which is twice last year’s 21%.
  • Small-firm CEOs also continue to express concern about the impact of tariffs.
  • Nearly four in 10 CEOs (37%) reported that tariffs were negatively impacting their business, and
  • 28% reported that the new tariffs implemented in September would affect their business.

According to Dr. Richard Curtin, an economist from the University of Michigan who analyzed the data, “the two recent cuts in interest rates made by the Fed will ease some concerns, although firms may think the primary reason for the Fed’s action was based on counteracting the potential for greater weakness in the economy.”

Despite this low level of confidence in the economy, workforce expansion plans are on the rise. More than half (59%) of small-firm CEOs reported plans to increase personnel in the year ahead, which is four points higher than last month. With unemployment staying near decade lows and job creation holding strong, small firms will need to continue to refine their recruitment and retention strategies to stay competitive in the war for talent.

Download the September report for more perspectives from small-firm CEOs, including:

Category: Economic / Future Trends

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Anne Petrik About the Author: Anne Petrik

As director of research for Vistage, Anne Petrik leads the design, deployment and analysis of member surveys for Vistage, capturing the sentiment and practices of the Vistage CEO community. This analysis, in collaboration with perspectives f…

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