Small Businesses Show Growing Signs of Caution About the Future

Staff Report

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

With new variants causing a rise in COVID-19 cases, the latest MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index finds that small businesses are showing increasing caution about the current and future economic climate.

This quarter’s Small Business Index score is 56.6, down from last quarter (60.0 in Q2), but in line with the beginning of the year (55.9 in Q1 2021).1 The survey—conducted between July 16 – 30, 2021 as the Delta variant began to spread rapidly across the country—shows signs that small business staffing and investments (both current and future) may be hitting a plateau.

However, overall views of their own business’s health and cash flow remain stable this quarter. Separate from the Index score, there are broad concerns about revenue, inflation, and the impact of rising costs generally. The survey also found that more small business owners, from every background, agree that minority-owned small businesses face more challenges than non-minority-owned businesses.

A big theme from this quarter’s survey is the growing caution of small businesses when it comes to future hiring and investment. There is evidence of this caution across a number of different metrics.

Compared with the past year, fewer businesses (29%) report plans to increase investment in their business over the next year (was 35% in Q1). This quarter 48% said they plan to invest the same amount over the next year (up from 42% last quarter and up from 37% in Q1).

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