Small business owners are less optimistic about the direction of the U.S. economy than they were in recent months, the National Federation of Independent Business said on Tuesday.
An NFIB survey of 759 businesses, chosen randomly, found that the group’s Index of Small Business Optimism declined 1.3 points to 89.5 last month, its first decline in three months.
“In the 44 months of economic expansion since the beginning of the recovery in July 2009, the index has averaged 90.7, putting the March reading below the mean for this period,” the NFIB said in a statement.
Of the 10 index components, two increased, two were unchanged and six declined. Among the greatest declines were labor market indicators, inventory investment plans and sales expectations.
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“After another false start, small business confidence has sputtered and stalled again," said Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB chief economist. “For the sector that produces half the private GDP and employs half the private sector workforce --- the fact that they are not growing, not hiring, not borrowing and not expanding like they should be, is evidence enough that uncertainty is slowing the economy.
“Virtually no owners think the current period is a good time to expand, because they simply don’t know what the future holds. So why invest?”