Economic / Future Trends

Small business economic confidence plummets [WSJ/Vistage March 2022]

small business confidence cover

While small business confidence hit a plateau through different economic headwinds over the last several months, the Russian invasion of Ukraine certainly amped up uncertainty levels, causing the WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index to fall 9 points in one month.

WSJ Vistage March 2022 report While all components that comprise the Index fell between February and March, the most notable was the change in small business sentiment about the economy, which fell by 25%. In just 4 months, small business sentiment about the national economy has reversed; 48% report that the economy has worsened, nearly identical to the proportion in December (46%) that said it recently improved.

WSJ Vistage March 2022

This reversal is largely driven by uncertainty related to the Russia-Ukraine war and increasing inflation anxiety. When asked directly about whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would impact their businesses, at the time of the survey 41% of small businesses said they would be impacted, and 44% were uncertain. Rising energy costs, supply chain challenges and suppliers, vendors and contractors in the affected regions are just some of the impacts small businesses experienced at the onset of the war.

The length of the war will determine the level of uncertainty and continue to impact economic confidence. Analysis of our April survey, which was in the field April 4-11, will reveal whether uncertainty continues to escalate and if small businesses remain conservative in the face of uncertainty.

Certainly, some of the other economic headwinds continue to impact economic sentiment, including ongoing inflationary pressures and supply chain challenges. Between February and March, there was a five-percentage-point increase in the proportion of small businesses that reported their supply chain was getting worse. While wages and prices from vendors dominate the inflationary pressures, the rising cost of energy is impacting industries reliant on supply chain.

WSJ Vistage March 2022

In last month’s survey, delivery and fulfillment challenges topped the list of supply chain challenges. To understand more about these challenges, an analysis of the March survey revealed that 42% of small businesses are challenged by transportation issues. The data in the March WSJ/Vistage Small Business report is a subset of the data collected from the Q1 2022 Vistage CEO Confidence Index. When comparing responses from small businesses — those with reported annual revenues between $1-20 million — to larger businesses that participated in the survey, transportation issues have an even greater impact on midsize businesses.

Read more about the sentiment of all small and midsize businesses surveyed in our analysis of the Q1 2022 Vistage CEO Confidence Index as well as analysis from Dr. Richard Curtin, a researcher from the University of Michigan.

Download the March report for complete data and analysis

For the complete dataset and analysis of the March WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index survey from the University of Michigan’s Dr. Richard Curtin, download the report and infographic to learn more, including:

  • Optimism about the future of the U.S. economy continues to decline.
  • Expansion plans over the next 12 months on the decline, with just 61% planning to grow their workforce compared to December’s 75%.
  • Revenue expectations hold to last month’s reading while profit expectations declined slightly.



About the WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey

Interactive data from the WSJ/Vistage Small Business survey

The March WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey was conducted March 7-14, 2022 and gathered 793 responses from CEOs and leaders of small businesses with revenues between $1 million and $20 million. Our April survey, in the field April 4-11, 2022, captured the sentiment of small businesses as the Russia-Ukraine War escalates.

Related Resources

The CEO Pulse: Hiring Resource Center

The CEO Pulse: Inflation Resource Center

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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