Small business owners are the most optimistic they have been about the economy in several years.
Small business owners are the most optimistic they have been about the economy in several years.
Financial Health
January 18, 2017

Small businesses most optimistic since 2008, index reports

The latest quarterly Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, conducted in November after the presidential election, highlights small business owners’ priorities for president-elect Donald Trump and Congress.

If you’re a small business owner feeling especially positive about your 2017 prospects, you’re not alone. Small business owners are the most optimistic they have been about the economy in several years, possessing a renewed sense of confidence about their own finances ahead, according to the latest quarterly Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index.

The survey, conducted in November after the presidential election, quantifies the encouraging sentiment as the score climbed 12 points to 80, representing the highest level of optimism since January 2008, when it was 83.

The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index shows optimism climbed to 80 — the highest level of optimism since January 2008, when it was 83.
The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index shows optimism climbed to 80 — the highest level of optimism since January 2008, when it was 83.

Small business owners reported feeling positive about the year ahead, with 45 percent expecting a better operating environment and improved finances. Fifty-eight percent anticipate higher revenues, an improvement from the previous quarter’s 48 percent, and 7 in 10 foresee stronger cash flow, according to the index.

Hiring and capital spending intentions also have improved, with 36 percent of survey respondents expecting to increase employment, the highest reading in the index’s 13-year history.

Political priorities

Small business owners also are offering their priorities for sustaining this optimism to the new president and Congress. The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup survey finds a little more than half of those surveyed think the actions in Washington this year will improve their businesses; only 17 percent expect their businesses will be worse off.

Survey respondents said the incoming administration and Congress should focus on issues that affect their bottom line. Eighty-one percent favor initiatives related to simplifying the tax code, eliminating tax regulations, and reducing tax rates for small businesses. Other top issues include actions related to health care and current health care law, as well as oil prices and energy costs.

Owners were also asked what the new president and Congress could do to help their businesses grow in the years ahead:

  • Ninety percent said improving the overall economy.
  • Four in five said reducing taxes on small businesses.
  • Seventy-eight percent identified simplifying the tax code as it applies to them.

Small business owners haven’t changed the list of top challenges facing them. The latest survey identified those challenges as attracting new business and government regulations (11 percent); hiring and retaining talent (10 percent); and the economy and health care costs (8 percent). These challenges have headed their list of concerns since early 2013, although the order has shifted from quarter to quarter.

Time will tell whether these top challenges continue to persist or new ones emerge.

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