JACKSON — The National Federation of Independent Business’ monthly Index of Small Business Optimism increased 1.9 points in February to 90.8 — an improvement over the past several months but still below the trough of the 1991-92 and 2001-02 recessions.
Of the 10 Index components, one fell, one remained unchanged and eight improved but were still low by historical standards.
State-specific data is not available, but Ron Aldridge, state director of NFIB/Mississippi, said what is happening locally is a reflection of national trends.
“The bottom line is that small, family-owned businesses still don’t have a lot of confidence,” he said. “Small-business owners are still wary about where we’re headed.”
Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB’s chief economist, agreed. “While the Fortune 500 are enjoying record earnings, Main Street earnings remain depressed. Far more firms report sales down quarter over quarter than up.
“Washington is manufacturing one crisis after another—the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff and the sequester,” he said. “Spreading fear and instability are certainly not a strategy to encourage investment and entrepreneurship. Three-quarters of small-business owners think that business conditions will be the same or worse in six months. The Index gained almost 2 points last month; that was good news. But, until owners’ forecast for the economy improves substantially, there will little boost to hiring and spending from the small business half of the economy.”