U.S. small business optimism hits highest level in history

A measure of optimism among U.S. small-business owners rose to a record and exceeded projections as companies planned the most capital spending since 2007 and hiring intentions hit an all-time high, a National Federation of Independent Business survey showed Tuesday.

The Small-Business Sentiment index rose 0.9 point, to 108.8, in August, the highest since tracking began in 1974 and exceeding the prior peak in September 1983

Capital spending plans were the highest since 2007 while inventory investment intentions were the strongest since 2005. A seasonally-adjusted net 26 percent of owners plan to increase employment, also a record

Small businesses are increasingly optimistic as the economic expansion enters its 10th year and the Trump administration prioritizes industry deregulation and tax cuts. Companies have been boosting inventories to match robust consumer demand for goods and services.

“The small business engine continues to roar with the dramatic change in economic policies since November 2016,” survey authors William Dunkelberg and Holly Wade said in the report.

While the gauge of intent to hire reached a record, finding qualified workers remains a problem. Of companies trying to fill a position in the month, 89 percent reported finding few or no qualified applicants. At the same time, reports of higher compensation were unchanged at a net 32 percent of firms and plans to raise pay decreased 1 point, to a net 21 percent.

A record 25 percent of owners cited “quality of labor” as the single most important problem facing their company, and 34 percent said now is a good time to expand business, up two points from prior month. Businesses that expect higher real sales dropped three points, to 26 percent. Six of 10 index components increased from the prior month.

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