Although the Alberta economy is slowly recovering from the depths of the recession in 2015 and 2016, the most recent economic downturn still remains heavily on the minds of small business owners in the province.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business monthly Business Barometer survey, small business optimism in Alberta hit its lowest level in six months in April, dropping 1.6 points from March, to 54.7.
The barometer is measured on a scale between 0 and 100 and an index level above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. An index level of between 65 and 75 means the economy is growing at its potential, says the CFIB.
“The last time we reached business confidence levels this low was during the 2008-09 economic crisis and again during the 2015-16 energy price crunch,” said Amber Ruddy, CFIB’s director of provincial affairs for Alberta. “With declines in confidence in all 10 provinces and 11 out of 13 industries, there’s not a lot of optimism amongst Canada’s small business owners.”
“While there is no single factor that influences small business confidence, there has been a widespread erosion of confidence following announcements regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This escalating issue is no longer about whether a pipeline should be built. It’s an issue of whether or not businesses – large or small – can invest with confidence knowing the rules won’t change after the fact.”
The CFIB said hiring intentions for Alberta’s small business owners remain unchanged in April with 15 per cent planning to increase full-time staff in the next three months, while 18 per cent are looking to cut back.
Nationally, small business confidence fell for the third consecutive month in April, dropping more than four points to 56.6, the third lowest reading for Canada in the past decade.
In Alberta, 20 per cent of entrepreneurs describe the general state of health of their business as good, representing a four point drop from March, and 24 per cent of Alberta operators describe their business’s health as poor, up three points from the previous month.
The other provincial numbers were: Quebec (68.7); Nova Scotia (67.9); Prince Edward Island (65.3); British Columbia (61.4); New Brunswick (60.9); Manitoba (59.9); Ontario (56.9); Saskatchewan (54.6); and Newfoundland and Labrador (50.8).
Respected business writer Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald in various capacities, including 12 years as a senior business writer.
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