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Optimism Among Small Businesses Declines as Delta Variant Surges

As the COVID-19 delta variant has wreaked havoc on state and local economies in the past month, a recent survey conducted among small businesses across the country shows declining optimism that’s fueled by continued labor shortages.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses has released its July findings for the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, with responses coming from NFIB’s membership. According to the analysis, businesses’ confidence decreased last month to 99.7, which is a drop of 2.8 points. The decline reversed June’s 2.9-point gain.

The NFIB reported 49% of business owners reported job openings that could not be filled, a 48-year record high. Owners’ plans to fill open positions remain high, with a seasonally adjusted net 27% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down one point from June’s record high reading.

Sales expectations over the next three months decreased 11 points to a net negative 4%, and proprietors expecting better business conditions over the next six months decreased eight points to a net negative 20%. Earnings trends over the past three months decreased eight points to a net negative 13% of owners

The survey measured 10 components, with six declining, three improving and one unchanged from June. Louisiana-specific data was not available.

“The lack of qualified workers and disruptions to the supply chain is making it hard for small businesses to recover from the COVID-19 downturn, but owners are doing everything they can to meet customers’ needs and keep everyone safe,” said Dawn McVea, NFIB’s state director for Louisiana.

Other findings include 55% of owners reporting capital outlays in the last six months, up two points from June but historically a below average reading, according to the survey. A net 5% of all owners reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, and a net negative 6% of owners reported inventory increases. This is down four and seven points from June, respectively.

A net 46% of owners reported raising average selling prices. Sectors where this was the most frequent were wholesale, followed by manufacturing and retail.

Click here to view the full report.

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