While many home-based and other small businesses and franchises continue to struggle in the wake of the most recent economic downturn, there are some indicators from both the past month and week that are cause for optimism. The Index of Small-Business Optimism, the number of jobless claims and consumer confidence in particular all show signs of either improving or remaining steady, causing a number of leading economists to speculate that the world’s largest economy is finally coming up for air.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is the nation’s leading small-business association, which routinely conducts some of the most comprehensive research on small-business issues in the nation. In a statement issued earlier this month, the NFIB announced a modest increase in the latest Index of Small-Business Optimism, emphasizing that both hiring and plans to hire were solid for the first time in quite a while and that last month’s reading marked the end of a very long period of price cutting.
NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said, “This is not a reading that characterizes a strongly rebounding economy. But it is the third best reading since the fourth quarter of 2009 when the economy was expanding rapidly.” He then added, “Apparently the future is looking brighter for a few more small-business owners.”
Bolstering the NFIB’s cautious optimism just this morning, Bloomberg News is reporting that both jobless claims and consumer confidence levels are somewhat encouraging for the first time in long time. The number of applications for unemployment insurance payments last month fell by 6,000, continuing a somewhat rocky, yet downward and encouraging trend as of late. And according to Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort Index, consumer confidence is finally turning a corner and rebounding from a seven-month low. Business activity also grew in March, close to the fasted it has grown in two decades in fact, and all expectations are that payroll pickups from February will remain the same as well.
“We have an economy that is growing solidly,” according to Jim O’Sullivan, chief economist at MF Global in New York. “All numbers are pointing to improvement in the labor market.”
Good news indeed.