The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index was basically unchanged in September, rising only 0.2 points, this after an August gain of only 0.5 points.
"Small business optimism continues to be stagnant, which is consistent with the expected economic growth of about 2.5 percent," said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. "The percent of owners citing the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their Most Important Business Problem increased and is now third on the list behind taxes and regulations. This is the highest reading since 2007 and suggests that employers will continue to face wage pressure in order to attract and keep good employees."
Job creation returned to its best level of the year in September, with owners adding a net 0.18 workers per firm in recent months, up 0.05 from August. Fifty-three percent reported hiring or trying to hire (down 3 points), but 45 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.
Fifty-eight percent reported capital outlays, unchanged from August. Seven percent acquired new buildings or land for expansion (unchanged) and 14 percent spent money for new fixtures and furniture (up 1 point). Overall, capital spending was basically flat.
Earnings trends, posted a 2 point gain, improving to a negative 13 percent. Since July, reports of positive earnings trends have improved by 6 percentage points, possibly driven by lower fuel prices.