The confidence level of small and medium-sized businesses in Alberta slipped slightly in November, according to a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
The national business advocacy group calculated the confidence index of its Alberta members this month at 73.6 on a 100-point scale. In October the number was 74.6 — the highest that the province’s index had been in 2 1/2 years.
“Small business confidence settled back a bit in November, but still registered some of the best results of the year, with Alberta still being one of the most positive operating environments in the country,” said Richard Truscott, Alberta director for the CFIB.
Fifty-five per cent of survey respondents described the general health of their business as “good,” which was five percentage points higher than in October.
Conversely, nine per cent characterized their business’s health as “bad,” which was one point higher than the previous month.
Truscott said labour shortages and rising wage costs continue to be the “Achilles heel” of Alberta businesses. The CFIB survey found that 53 per cent of business owners consider shortages of skilled labour their most significant limitation on sales and production. That was one point higher than in October.
Other major limiting factors identified were management skills and time constraints (39 per cent) and shortages of workers for lower-skilled positions (35 per cent).
When it comes to the biggest cost constraints facing their business, 61 per cent of the respondents pointed to wage costs.
That was 14 points higher than any other issue.
The November survey indicated that 31 per cent of the business owners questioned planned to add full-time staff over the next three months, down one point from October.
Nine per cent expected a reduction in staff, up one point.
The national business confidence level was measured at 65.9 in November, down 1.9 points from the previous month. British Columbia had the highest provincial score, at 73.9, followed by Alberta, Newfoundland (67.7), Ontario (65.7), Saskatchewan (63.4), Manitoba (63.8), New Brunswick (61.9), Nova Scotia (59.9), Prince Edward Island (59.0) and Quebec (58.9).
The CFIB’s November survey results were based on 982 responses.
The federation says an index level between 65 and 75 means the economy is growing at its potential.