The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)’s small business optimism survey ended the year of 2019 historically strong. However, the 46-year-old tracking survey was down slightly for the month of November.

“December marked the end of another banner year for the small business economy, as owners took full advantage of strong consumer spending, and federal tax and regulatory relief,” said NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg.

An increased number of small business owners reported better business conditions and expect higher sales in the next three months, according to Dunkelberg.


Small businesses continued to hire and create new jobs with actual job creation matching November’s reading, the highest since May.

9% | Percentage of small business owners who reported higher nominal sales in the past three months. (Three points above the average reading for 2019).

16% | Percent of owners expecting higher real sales (up 3 points). Actual sales volumes are strong and owners are a bit more certain of future sales growth, says Dunkelberg.

19% | Percentage of owners who plan to create new jobs, (down 2 points)

23% | The top concern of owners is finding qualified workers remains the top issue for small-business owners. “Their biggest problem is finding qualified labor, surpassing taxes or regulations,” said Dunkelberg.

Impeachment Impact?

The current focus in Washington, D.C. around impeachment is having little, if any, impact on small business owners, said Dunkelberg. “This is no different than during the Clinton impeachment proceedings.”

“The Index showed little variation over the 1998-99 period that included the pre-impeachment news coverage, the impeachment proceedings, and the aftermath. The initial 2019 path is starting in a similar fashion, albeit at a stronger position,” Dunkelberg said.

About NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends Survey: The NFIB Research Center has collected Small Business Economic Trends data with quarterly surveys since the 4th quarter of 1973 and monthly surveys since 1986. Survey respondents are drawn from a random sample of NFIB’s membership. The report is released on the second Tuesday of each month. This survey was conducted in December 2019.

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