As we noted in an earlier post, inflation appears to be a major driver as to why small businesses are reporting historic pessimism for the US economy. Looking across the most important problems reported by small businesses in the NFIB’s monthly survey, inflation takes the cake as the biggest concern. Nearly a third of responding firms reported higher prices as their biggest problem; the highest level on record in data going back to 1986. That has now surpassed the prior series high of 20% in mid-2008.
Given inflation has stolen such a large share of small business worries, several other problems are now at or near record lows. For example, no firms reported competition from big businesses as the biggest issue. Government requirements and red tape are similarly at a record low after a one percentage point decline month over month. Taxes, poor sales, and financial and interest rates are also not a huge concern according to the survey.
With both government-related concerns dropping yet again, the combined reading between the percentage of respondents reporting taxes and government red tape as their biggest issues hit a new record low of 22%. The past few Presidential administrations have seen this reading more elevated and rising with Democrat presidents while Republican Presidents have coincided with lower readings. The current administration is now an exception with big declines as inflation concerns have come front and center.
The rise of inflation concerns have also resulted in a pullback in the share of respondents reporting cost or quality of labor as the biggest issue. While the combined reading rose one point in April thanks to the quality of labor, the combined reading is well off the peak of 40% from last September. Additionally, for the second month in a row and for the first time in roughly a decade, inflation continues to be the bigger concern. Click here to learn more about Bespoke’s premium stock market research service.