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Small Business Optimism Index Hits 34-Month High

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index continued to inch up in November to 93.2, reaching a 34-month high. This is the fourth consecutive monthly gain for the index.

The low point for the index during the latest recession was 81.

From a historical perspective, though, the index is still at a recession level .  The recovery in the index continues to underperform all recovery periods since 1973, when NFIB began conducting the surveys. There is no evidence of a surge as experienced in 1983 after the deep recessions of 1980-82.

“The index is trending up, but at a very slow pace,” Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB’s chief economist said in a statement.

“We pin it to 100 as a good year,” Holly Wade, an NFIB policy analyst, told BusinessNewsDaily. “We have 1986 as being a good, normal year.”

On the employment front, the average increase in employment per firm turned positive in November after flatlining at “0” the previous month. The improvement was slight at an average gain per firm of 0.1 workers, said the NFIB, but at least it marked a move into positive territory.

The outlook for capital spending and outlook was also rosier in November. The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the future rose 2 points to 20 percent, but is still quite low from an historical perspective.

“Spending seems to be primarily in maintenance mode — if it breaks, replace it,” Dunkelberg said.

Nine percent of small businesses also characterized the current period as a good time to expand facilities .

“Apparently the future is looking brighter for more owners, although much will depend on what Congress does in the closing weeks of the year,” he said.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.