A worrying slide in Alberta business confidence has reversed itself, based on a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
The national organization, which represents 109,000 small and medium-sized businesses — including some in Red Deer and Central Alberta — said Wednesday that confidence among its Alberta members jumped by 3.2 three points in September. That followed two months of declining optimism, with the figure slipping 2.4 points in August and three points in July.
At 71.1 out of 100, CFIB’s “business barometer index” for Alberta was the second highest in Canada, trailing only Newfoundland and Labrador’s index of 75.
“With a bit more pessimism having crept into the outlook for many small business owners over the summer months, its a relief to see things reverse course in September” said Richard Truscott, the CFIB’s Alberta director.
“Even better, the revival of optimism among Alberta’s entrepreneurs coincides with a similar rebound across Canada.”
CFIB’s business barometer index for Canada rose two points in September, to 62. That followed five consecutive months of decline.
Among the other province’s, Saskatchewan’s index was 67.6, New Brunswick’s was 62.8, Quebec’s was 61.2, Ontario’s was 60.1, British Columbia’s was 59, Nova Scotia’s was 55.6, Manitoba’s was 54.7 and Prince Edward Island’s was 44.6.
The index was based on CFIB members’ responses to a question about the overall state of business in their province.
In Alberta, 51 per cent said it was good in September, compared to 42 per cent in August.
Forty-five per cent said it was satisfactory, compared to 53 per cent previously; and four per cent said it was bad, the same level as in August.
“Unfortunately, not all the news is positive,” said Truscott.
“There has been some slight softening in the hiring expectations of Alberta’s business owners.”
He noted that in September, 24 per cent of Alberta entrepreneurs said they would be hiring in the next three to four months, down three points from August.
Seventy-one per cent said employment would stay the same, up from 67 per cent, while only five per cent said they would be reducing their workforce, a drop of one point.
When asked about their operating challenges, 41 per cent of respondents pointed to the shortage of skilled labour.
The CFIB said an index above 50 means more owners expect their businesses’ performance to be stronger in the next year than those who expect weaker performance. Index levels normally range between 65 and 75 when the economy is growing, it said.