Report: Small business optimism up among all sectors except retail

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) announced the release of its NFIB Research Center’s quarterly Small Business Economic Trends industry report showing a growing optimism index in the construction, manufacturing, and services industries but a slight decrease for retailers. NFIB’s July Small Business Economic Trends report reported the overall Optimism Index at 99.7. Key findings include:   


  • The Optimism Index for July was 98.8, up 1.4 points from April’s quarterly report; 
  • Small business owners in the construction industry had the highest percentage of unfilled job openings among all industries at 61%; 
  • The demand for new construction remains high but companies struggle to hire qualified workers; 
  • Fifty-nine percent of the job openings in the industry are for skilled workers and 66% of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants; and
  • Sixty-five percent of construction firms reported raising prices in July.  


  • The July Optimism Index for manufacturing was 105.2, up from 104.8 in April;  
  • Sixty percent of manufacturing firms reported unfilled job openings, second only to the construction industry ;  
  • A net 41% of firms plan to create new jobs in the next three months; and   
  • A net 9% of manufacturing owners expect higher sales in the next three months.  


  • The retail industry’s July Optimism Index was 100.4, two points down from April;   
  • Earnings trends in retail fell 11% from the previous quarter to a net -9%; 
  • Retail owners’ expectations about economic conditions over the next six months declined nine points to a net -22%;  
  • A net 20% of retailers report current inventory levels “too low,” compared to a net 12% of all small businesses; and   
  • The retail industry is increasing inventory levels as part of a net 13% plan to increase inventories over the next three to six months.  


  • The service sector Optimism Index increased in July to 100.2; and  
  • A net -19% expect better business conditions six months from now, a decline of 11 points from April.