Small businesses remained relatively optimistic overall about the economy in April, though they expressed some unease in their expectations for improvement in the economy following an unsuccessful attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index dipped 0.2% in April to 104.5, dragged down in part by an eight-point fall in improvement expectations. Still, most of the factors tracked in the NFIB index remained on solid footing, including sales trends and increasing employment, according to an analysis of the data by Wells Fargo.
Owners continue to report difficulty in filling skilled or qualified labor, and the percentage of owners who rank the situation as their most important problem is nearing a cycle high not seen since November 2000, Wells Fargo analysts said.
Meanwhile, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) survey that was released today, job openings rose a bit in March with 5.7 million openings. Job openings rose by 126,000 positions, while mining and logging lost 8,000 slots following recent gains.
Involuntary separations remain low as employers seem to be trying to hold on to workers in a tight labor market, Wells Fargo said. The so-called quit rate stayed the same at 2.1% in March, where it’s been hovering for the past year. “Although this marks an improvement from earlier in the cycle, wages have disappointingly failed to accelerate thus far in 2017. With a 17-year high share of small businesses reporting jobs are hard to fill, an acceleration in quits would bode well for a pickup in wage growth later this year,” analysts said.
– Nicholas Stern, senior editor