Alberta small business confidence highest in 18 months

CALGARY – Alberta small business confidence in September was at its highest level in a year and a half but the shortage of labour is still the biggest challenge for the province’s entrepreneurs, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

In its latest Business Barometer survey, released Thursday, the CFIB said small business confidence in the province jumped 2.1 points in September to 73.8.

“The level of confidence among Alberta’s entrepreneurs is up by 4.4 points since July, including another two points this month. That’s clearly a healthy jump and certainly good news for our provincial economy,� said Richard Truscott, director of provincial affairs for the CFIB in Alberta.

The national index stayed virtually unchanged in September (65.6) compared to August (65.5). Across Canada, entrepreneurs in Newfoundland (74.2) were again the most optimistic about the economy and the future prospects for their business, followed by Alberta, British Columbia (70.9), Saskatchewan (68.2), Manitoba (65.8), Ontario (65.2), Nova Scotia (63.5) Quebec (60.5), New Brunswick (59.2), and Prince Edward Island (53.8).

In Alberta, hiring intentions stayed about the same in September with 34 per cent of respondents planning to add full-time staff, down just one point, while six per cent were expecting to cut back, unchanged from August.

The survey also found that 51 per cent of entrepreneurs characterized the economy as “good� in September, down six points after reaching a post-recession high in August. Only five per cent described it as “bad�, same as last month. Despite the drop, Alberta’s business owners maintain one of the most positive outlooks in the country on the general business environment, said the CFIB.

The survey found that 53 per cent of entrepreneurs said the shortage of skilled labour was limiting their sales or production growth.

“Alberta’s economy appears to be running at full tilt, but the shortage of qualified labour continues to hamstring the growth and success of smaller firms,� said Truscott.

The Business Barometer is measured on a scale of 0 and 100 and an index level above 50 means owners expecting their businesses’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. According to past results, index levels normally range between 65 and 75 when the economy is growing at its potential, said the CFIB.

mtoneguzzi@calgaryherald.com

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