Business confidence slips

Christmas cheer may have been lacking at some Alberta businesses during December, based on the latest survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Christmas cheer may have been lacking at some Alberta businesses during December, based on the latest survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The CFIB reports that the confidence level of entrepreneurs in this province fell 1.4 points to 70.6 out of a possible 100 during the month.

“Unfortunately, it looks like many business owners, especially those in retail, are feeling the holiday season may not have been as good as they had hoped and expected,” said Richard Truscott, Alberta director with the CFIB.

However, the confidence level in Alberta remained well above the national average, which fell 3.6 points to 62.3. British Columbia business owners were the most confident, at 72.6, followed by Alberta, and then Saskatchewan (68.4), Newfoundland (68.1), Manitoba (63.4), Ontario (62.9), Prince Edward Island (58.3) Nova Scotia (58.3), New Brunswick (56.7) and Quebec (53.8).

“Despite some softening of confidence in a few keys sectors, which may at least be partly explained by seasonality in the data, our province’s business owners, on balance, are still relatively optimistic about the performance of their business going into 2014,” said Truscott.

Forty-four per cent of the survey respondents in Alberta said their business’s performance was good, down six points since November. Only eight per cent described it as bad, two points higher than a month earlier.

The shortage of skilled workers remained the biggest operating challenge for small business, with 36 per cent of entrepreneurs citing the issue as one limiting their sales or production growth.

Thirty-two per cent of business owners surveyed said they planned to expand their full-time workforce in the next three months, compared to 38 per cent in November. Only six per cent were expecting a reduction in employment, one point higher than in November.

The CFIB said a business confidence index level normally ranges between 65 and 75 when the economy is growing at its potential.

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