Economic / Future Trends

WSJ/Vistage Feb. 2020: Small business CEO confidence reaches 15-month high


  • Small business CEO confidence improves 18% from low recorded in October 2019
  • February reflects the highest level of small business’s confidence in the last 15 months
  • Uncertainty revolves around changes in tax and spending programs and the coronavirus

Small business owners are getting more optimistic about the economy.

February reflects the highest level of confidence among small businesses in the last 15 months, growing for the second month in a row, according to the most recent survey conducted by Vistage in partnership with the Wall Street Journal.

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In January, the increase in confidence was due to more small business CEOs noting recent improvements in the national economy. The February increase was driven by more CEOs expressing positive views on the future growth of the U.S. economy.

The CEO Confidence Index reached 105.7 in February, an 18% gain from the low point recorded in October 2019, when the Index measured 89.9. All six of the factors that comprise the WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index improved in February as well, which include sentiment about the economy compared to last year, projections for economic conditions over the next 12 months, projections for revenue and profitability, as well as plans for workforce expansion and fixed investments.

In addition to the notable improvements in expectations about the economy, the February survey also recorded the most optimistic projections for sales revenues and profits since the middle of 2018.

“The overall intentions of small businesses point toward the continuation of the longest expansion on record,” says Dr. Richard Curtin, a researcher from University of Michigan who analyzed the results.

This expansion is not without hurdles. Nearly two-thirds of small business CEOs said they were challenged by the labor market’s impact on hiring and retention.

While the economic outlook is rosier, Curtin points to the areas that small business owners feel are indeterminate.

“Uncertainty is now driven by pending changes in tax and spending programs based on the outcome of the elections,” he says. “The ultimate impact from the coronavirus on the global economy is as yet unknown. Despite these uncertainties, small businesses will remain a positive force for job growth and the overall economy.”

This month’s WSJ/Vistage Small Business Survey was conducted February 3 – 10, 2020 and gathered 668 responses from CEOs and other leaders of small businesses in the U.S.

Download the February report for the complete analysis.

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About the WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey

Category: Economic / Future Trends

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About the Author: Anne Petrik

As Vice President of Research for Vistage, Anne Petrik is instrumental in the creation of original thought leadership designed to inform the decision-making of CEOs of small and midsize businesses. These perspectives — shared through repo

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