February 4, 2019

By Mary Miller
Contributing Editor, Main Street Monday

Main Street Monday – Survey Results Reveal Small Business Optimism Levels Remain Virtually Unchanged

December 2018 Small Business Optimism Index survey results released by the NFIB Research Foundation highlights include:


Holding steady from last month, 61% of small business owners report capital outlays. Expenditures are earmarked as follows:

  • 42% report new equipment purchases
  • 25% report new vehicle acquisitions
  • 15% report expanding or improving business facilities
  • 15% report allocating capital for new fixtures/furniture
  • 6% report acquiring new building(s) or land for future expansion


Holding steady from last month, 32% of small business owners report all their credit needs are being met, while 50% report they are not interested in applying for credit, which is up by three points.

Other lending stats:

  • 23% continue to report the issue of qualified labor availability
  • 14% report industry regulations or “red tape”
  • 13% report taxes are an issue (down six points)
  • 3% report credit/financing is a top business issue (up one point)

Projected Sales

  • A net 4% of small business owners (seasonally adjusted) report higher nominal sales in the past quarter, down five points from record high readings.
  • The net percent of owners reporting higher sales averaged 2% in 2017, but 9% in 2018, indicating a peak value of 15%.
  • The net percent of owners predicting higher real sales volumes fell one point to a net 23% of owners.
  • Consumer spending remains steady.
  • Lack of qualified labor is hitting hard in the small manufacturing and construction industries, where owners cannot fill open positions. The sell what they can produce based on staffing.

Projected real sales growth and business conditions in the next six months are the primary cause of the slight decline in the Index, down 0.4 points to 104.4.

“Optimism among small business owners continues to push record highs, but they need workers to generate more sales, provide services, and complete projects, says NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan. “Two of every three of these new jobs are historically created by the small business half of the economy, so it will be Main Street that will continue to drive economic growth.”