Small biz confidence gives expansion a lift

From the pages of In Business magazine.

William Dunkelberg, chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, might be pinching himself about the economic data the NFIB now sees, but he’s pretty matter of fact about how good it really is.

“This is some of the best stuff we’ve seen in 45 years of talking to small businesses,” he states.

Dunkelberg was in Madison recently as part of a Small Business Economic Road Show along with Wayne Best, head of business and economic insights for Visa Inc. The Federation’s most recent Small Business Economic Trends Survey tells us that the good news includes a surge in small-business optimism, increased wages, and plans for business expansion.

About the only thing serving as a drag on growth is the difficulty small employers — who comprise roughly half of private gross domestic product — are having in beefing up their respective workforces. That concern is real and has created a labor market that is quite advantageous to jobseekers — so advantageous that the national unemployment rate is now under 4% and the state of Wisconsin’s has dipped below 3%.

Dunkelberg has overseen the widely watched survey and the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index since 1973. “They [small employers] have done very well lately,” he notes. “We’re in the second longest expansion in our history, and they played a major role in that, keeping us going for eight years when growth was slow, and then accelerating growth by 50%, from 2% to the 3% growth that we have now, which is massive and really accelerating us into the next few months, and we hope into the next few years.”

Based on recent public opinion surveys, President Trump is getting more of the credit for the expanded expansion, as most small business owners appreciate his regulatory streamlining and tax rate reductions that have put more money in consumers’ pockets. Former President Obama also gets his share of the credit for stopping the bleeding that took place in 2008–09 and presiding over a long expansion. To Dunkelberg, however, all the credit goes to small business owners because ultimately “they are the ones who get it done” no matter what set of policies are pursued.

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