B.C. small business optimism still highest in Canada

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For the third straight month, small business optimism in British Columbia ranked the highest in Canada.

February’s Business Barometer index edged down marginally to 71.4, but remains among the best BC has posted in the past two and a half years. Hiring plans remain fairly positive as well, with 23 per cent of owners planning to add --and only 5 per cent expecting to shed-- full-time staff in the next few months.

“The past three months have seen BC solidify its position as the high-water mark for small business optimism across Canada,” said CFIB BC policy analyst Kimball Kastelen. “It now seems clear that the surge in confidence first observed last summer has developed into a sustained shift in outlook for BC’s entrepreneurs.”

Across Canada, the Business Barometer index rose by 0.4 points to 64.4 this month, expanding on its 1.7 point gain in January. In fact, the index now runs about half a point better than its 2013 average.

“This is a sign that small businesses see the glass as more than half full for February,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice-president and chief economist. “And, the reading’s in line with last month’s trend, where we already saw optimism levels rebounding.” Notably, the rapid downshift in the value of the Canadian dollar in late January has shown up in business pricing plans. After averaging 1.4 per cent through 2013, expected annual price increases surged to 2.1 per cent in February as importers scrambled to adjust to the new currency level.

Measured on a scale between 0 and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. An index level of between 65 and 70 means the economy is growing at its potential.

February 2014 findings are based on 1156 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 2.9 per cent 19 times in 20.

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