While one recent survey has a full two-thirds of Canadian manufacturers surveyed saying they’re optimistic about their business growth prospects over the next year and a half, another shows that confidence is down in the sector.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the biggest declines in SME optimism this year are in the manufacturing and retail sectors.
Following a steep decline in SME optimism across the board this March, Canada’s small biz owners continued to lose confidence in April. The CFIB’s Business Barometer Index now stands at 62.4, half a point below March’s reading and four points under February’s.
Ted Mallett, the CFIB’s VP and chief economist, says, “Latest levels are now back in line with what we had seen in the final months of 2012 when the economy was exhibiting only lukewarm growth.”
But Mallett says the bad news doesn’t extend across all sectors. “The sentiments among owners of construction, wholesale and business services firms are holding up reasonably well.”
The index also shows that concerns among SMEs about shortages of skilled labour are down.
The CFIB’s recent report on the impact of labour shortages on western SMEs found that salespeople and construction workers are the hardest to find (at least out west).
According to that report, Looking for Hire Ground, 50% of businesses surveyed in western Canada have ignored new business opportunities because they didn’t have enough staff.
While Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney said this week that the Foreign Workers Program should not be used to fill lower-skilled jobs, some are arguing that there are gaps in the labour force that foreign workers could, and should, fill.