Optimism among U.S. small business owners is on the rise, with more owners planning to invest in their companies, a new survey reveals. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) says its Small Business Optimism Index for October rose 0.8 points to 96.1, returning a level last reached in August.
More than a quarter of small business owners are planning capital outlays on everything from machinery to land. The 26% reading – the highest since early 2008 – suggests business spending is poised for a pick-up, a hopeful sign for the economy. Additionally, 24% of business owners say they’re having trouble filling job openings, a three percentage point rise from September that implies strengthening customer demand is driving the need for more workers.
“Historically, readings this high only occurred in periods of strong growth,” says NFIB Economist William Dunkelberg.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t all roses for small business owners. A growing number of them reported that their profits were falling, and there remain persistent fears that the overall economy is on tenuous footing, with a slip possible. This apprehension, says Dunkelberg, goes a long way toward explaining why more business owners are not borrowing more to grow their firms.
“They’re not interested in taking on debt because they’re not confident in the future,” he says.
In the ad specialty industry specifically, distributors currently have a positive outlook. The exclusive Counselor Confidence Index, a quarterly measure of distributors’ views on the market and the health of their business, reached a reading of 112 in the third quarter. The result was 12 points above the baseline that indicates industry growth and only two points away from the index’s all-time high.