The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell 2.8 points to 95.2 in March, the lowest reading since June 2014. All 10 index components declined, contributing to the 31 point decline in net positive responses.
"It is no surprise that optimism is muted and owners’ expectations about the future are less than exuberant," said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. "Small-business owners are not encouraged to expand their businesses when consumer spending is down, U.S. trading partners are weakening and the government continues to try and micromanage the private sector with red tape and regulations."
The net percent of owners reporting an increase in employment fell 5 percentage points to a net negative 1 percent of owners, down substantially from the recent high of 9 percent in December 2014. Overall, the average increase in workers per firm was 0.18 workers per firm, besting the stats for January and February, which were excellent readings, according to the NFIB.
Fifty percent reported hiring or trying to hire (down 3 points), but 42 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Ten percent reported using temporary workers, down 2 points. Twenty-four percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down 5 points from February, which was the highest reading since March, 2006. A net 10 percent plan to create new jobs, down 2 points but a solid reading.