Every week the U.S. Chamber’s Vice President of Small Business Policy Tom Sullivan summarizes the latest data and what it means for the health of America’s small businesses.

This week is National Small Business Week, and survey data from Pew Research shows how much Americans value small business. On the economic side, revenue expectations and hiring plans for small employers dipped last month, according to the WSJ/Vistage Small Business Index.

Listen: Tom Sullivan and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)’s Holly Wade talk about their small business forecasts on a weekly podcast. Listen here.

Watch: Catch Tom Sullivan on ASBN (America’s Small Business Network) every month, providing the latest small business policy updates, news, and analysis. Watch here.

Just Released! The Q1 2024 MetLife & U.S. Chamber Small Business Index was released on April 2.

Applications Open for the CO—100

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce CO—100 is a list of the top 100 small businesses in America from the world’s largest business organization. 

CO—100 businesses will earn national media exposure, get exclusive access to experts, and tap into one-of-a-kind VIP perks. In addition to these benefits, ten businesses will receive $2,000, and America’s Top Small Business of the Year will be awarded $25,000.


New Small Business Data

WSJ / Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index (April 24, 2024)

Summary: The monthly index continues a downward slide with hiring expectations dipping due to inflationary wage pressure. Revenue and profit expectations shrink, but investment plans hold steady.

  • 24% of small business owners say the economy has improved compared to 12 months ago (down 3 points from March), and 32% say that the economy has gotten worse over the past year (5 points worse than March).
  • 24% of small business owners believe the economy will improve in the next 12 months (down 2 points from March), and 26% believe the economy will worsen (4 points worse than March).
  • 48% of small businesses plan on increasing employees in the next 12 months (down 6 points from March). 
  • 34% of small businesses expect to increase fixed investments in the next year (unchanged from March).
  • 60% of small businesses expect increased revenues in the next 12 months (2 points less than March). 
  • 46% believe profitability will improve (down 2 points from March), and 20% of small business owners believe profitability will decrease (3 points worse than March).

Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index April 2024 (April 2, 2024)

Summary: Optimism for hiring may still be high, but actual hiring by small employers remains in negative territory. 

  • While job growth has remained in the negative since last September, small business employment declines have improved a little bit since March and show -0.10%.
  • Information sector had steepest decline since March and manufacturing was a close second.  
  • Wholesale trade showed the steepest increase and education and health services was a close second for positive employment data.
  • New England states experienced small business employment growth and the West Coast experienced employment declines.

MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index for Q1 (April 2, 2024)

Summary: Negative feelings about the economy lessen for Main Street, and inflation remains front and center on small business owners’ radar.

  • 33% of small business owners are positive about the national economy’s overall health (increased 8 points since last quarter) and 48% are negative about the U.S. economy (5 points less negative than last quarter).
  • 38% of small business owners are positive about their local economy (8 points higher since last quarter) and 30% have a negative view of their local economy (2 points less negative than last quarter).
  • 52% of small business owners rank inflation at their top concern (9th consecutive quarter at top). 
  • 16% of small business owners added staff in the past year (down 1 point from last quarter and down 3 points from a year ago).
  • 36% of small businesses plan on increasing investment over the next 12-months (6 points lower than last quarter) and 34% of small businesses plan on adding staff (6 points lower than last quarter).
  • The percentage of small businesses anticipating increased revenues remains elevated (67%) albeit 4 points lower than the last 2 quarters’ record highs.
  • 65% of small businesses believe the health of their own businesses is good (1 point increase from last quarter) and 67% are comfortable with their current cash flow (no change from last quarter).
  • 60% of small business owners are concerned about cyber threats and 48% have trained staff on cybersecurity safety measures.
  • 62% of small business owners contribute to a “rainy-day fund” in anticipation of a crisis or threat and 61% feel comfortable about their ability to withstand a disaster. 

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index (April 9, 2024)

Summary: Optimism Index hits an 11-year low as inflation continues to be strongest headwind. 

  • 10% of small business owners reported higher sales in the past 3 months (3 points better than February), and the percentage expecting higher sales dropped 8 points to 18%.
  • 25% of small business owners ranked inflation as their top concern, (up 2 points from February), and 18% of small business owners ranked labor quality as their top problem in March.
  • 28% of small businesses raised their prices in March (up 7 points), and 33% are planning on raising prices in the next 3 months (up 3 points from February).
  • 56% of small business owners reported capital outlays in the last 6 months (up 2 points from February), and 20% are planning capital purchases in the next 3 months (down 1 point from February).
  • 8% of small business owners are expecting better credit conditions in the next 3 months (2 points worse than February).
  • 36% of business owners are expecting the economy to improve (2 points better than in February).

Gusto New Business Formation Report (April 2, 2024)

Summary: Some startup trends remain the same (funding through personal savings) and some are different (women outpaced men in 2021 and 2023).

  • 49% of 2023’s startups reported they are women-owned (no change since 2020 and 20 points more than 2019). 45% of 2023’s startups reported they are owned by men.
  • 70% of women CEOs cited flexibility as the top motivator for launching their business in 2023 and flexibility ranked highest for startups owned by men too (66%).
  • 67% used $10,000 or less (mostly in personal savings) to start their businesses in 2023.
  • 35% of 2023’s startups hired fully remote employees (13 points higher than 2022).