Daily News: December 5, 2012

Capital One Survey Finds Small Business Confidence Holds Steady


According to Capital One’s third-quarter 2012 Small Business Barometer, small business owners across the country believe economic conditions have held steady throughout 2012, and looking ahead to 2013, many (45%) think the U.S. economy will remain about the same.

Capital One’s quarterly survey of small businesses across the nation examines general economic indicators and small business perceptions of the economic environment, gauging current financial conditions and business projections for the next six months.

Current economic conditions for small businesses nationally are holding steady. Nearly half (45%) of small businesses report economic conditions for their business are about the same, consistent with the previous quarter and the same as the third quarter of 2011. However, roughly a third (29%) of small businesses report improving economic conditions. This is eight points lower than last quarter and four points lower than the third quarter of 2011. While a majority of small businesses believe economic conditions are the same or improving, a quarter of small businesses (24%) believe economic conditions are getting worse.

Although 40% of small businesses report their firm’s financial position has improved compared to a year ago, the number that report their business is doing worse reached a two-year high (23%). This is an eight point increase from the previous quarter and the third quarter of 2011. Thirty-five percent of small businesses report their firms’ financial positions are about the same, a six point decrease from last quarter and a 14 point decrease from the third quarter of 2011.

Small business owners’ economic outlook for the next six months has worsened compared to a year ago. The national business outlook is a measure of business prospects over the next six months on a scale of significantly worse (one) to significantly better (ten). Even though they are faced with steady current economic conditions, due to worsening financial performance, small businesses rate the national business outlook at 5.7 out of ten points, 0.3 points lower than the 6.0 from the previous quarter. Conversely, all of the key business indicators are having a greater impact on business prospects than last quarter. Price margins are expected to have the most impact on business prospects, also having the largest change since last quarter (0.3-point decrease).

Across the country, fewer small businesses are planning to hire employees in the next six months. The majority of small businesses say they do not plan to hire employees in the next six months (69%). This is four points higher than the same time last year (Q3/11) and nine points higher than last quarter (Q2/12). Businesses reporting challenges in finding the right talent to fill available openings has decreased slightly from Q2. Fourteen percent of small businesses say they have job openings they are unable to fill, down two points from the previous quarter.

The majority of small businesses report that plans for general spending, business development and investment are steady. Sixty-five percent of small businesses plan to keep spending at the same levels, a six point increase from the third quarter of 2011, but a five point decrease from last quarter