The numbers: In March, small business owners felt most optimistic since the coronavirus epidemic broke out more than a year ago, a new survey found, but they remain cautious about future plans.
The optimism closely watched by the National Federation of Independent Businesses climbed to a pandemic high of 98.2 last month from 95.8 in February. That roughly matches the survey’s historic average
However, this is still much lower than pre-pandemic levels. The index stands near an all-time high of 104.5 in February 2020, just one month before the outbreak of the pandemic.
What happened: Small businesses have been helped by the lifting of state restrictions this year after the number of coronavirus infections plummeted. Sales have improved and many companies are trying to hire.
One of their biggest problems is finding the right workers, which seems odd given the dramatic drop in employment during the pandemic. More than 8 million people who used to keep their jobs last year are no longer working.
A record 42% of small businesses surveyed said they could not find work. Small businesses say the government’s generous unemployment benefits are keeping some workers from applying for jobs, but the labor shortage has reverted for at least a few years.
More than a quarter of companies said they raised salaries to attract workers – the highest number in the past year.
Big picture: Small businesses are particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic because many people rely on close personal contact with customers, and a few have the resources to easily overcome the long term of goverment.
However, a strong economic recovery this year has given them more reason to hope. What adds to the optimism is that the number of Americans vaccinated is increasing and the number of coronavirus infections continues to decline.
What are they talking about? “Main Street is doing better as state and local restrictions loosen, but finding qualified workers is an important issue for small businesses nationwide,” says the trader. NFIB chief chief, Bill Dunkelberg, said.
Market reaction: Dow Jones industrial average
and S&P 500
down in trading on Monday.