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Hiring, Investment Optimism Hits Pandemic High in U.S. Chamber Small Business Poll

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Metlife quarterly report finds improvement in small business optimism at the end of 2021
  • 77 percent of respondents say they’re optimistic about their future
  • However, small business owners are increasingly expressing concerns about inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Small businesses are showing more optimism but also growing more concerned about emerging factors such as inflation and supply chain disruptions, according to a recent poll from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Metlife.

The firms’ Small Business Index for the fourth quarter of the year, derived from survey responses in October, reached a pandemic high of 63. The score stood at 71.7 in the first quarter of 2020 and plummeted to 39.5 in the second quarter of 2020, and has gradually recovered since then.

“Small business owners’ optimism is plowing through economic uncertainty, but they now face new obstacles with rising inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain challenges,” said Tom Sullivan, vice president for small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Addressing these challenges will be key to sustaining Main Street’s optimism and the nation’s economic recovery.”

  • 77 percent of small business owners said they were optimistic about their future; 62 percent described their business as being in good health, up from 55 percent in last quarter
  • 38 percent said they plan to hire more workers in the next year, up 10 points from the previous quarter and the highest level since the index was established in the second quarter of 2017
  • 42 percent said they plan to increase investments in their business, up 13 points from the previous quarter
  • 74 percent said they were worried about the impact of inflation on their business, and 71 percent said rising prices have had a significant impact on their business
  • 63 percent have responded to inflation by raising their own prices, while 45 percent have taken out a loan and 41 percent have reduced their staff
  • 61 percent said they’ve experienced supply chain disruptions, while 55 percent said they’ve experienced labor disruptions
  • The findings run counter to surveys by the National Small Business Association and National Federation of Independent Business, which show little change in small business optimism but also reflect plans to increase investments in hiring and capital improvements

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