Small Business Weekly Forecast | U.S. Chamber of Commerce

We track the latest data on the small business outlook so that you don’t have to. Every week, Tom Sullivan analyzes new data from NFIB, Intuit, WSJ/Vistage, and more, to give a weekly economic forecast for small businesses.

The Latest Forecast

The small business forecast for this week is cold.  High interest rates and anxiety over high inflation are putting a “deep freeze” on small businesses’ growth plans.  Maybe there will be an early thaw if more good prospects enter the job market, but that is doubtful since worker shortages have been a challenge for Main Street employers for six years. 

What it means: High interest rates are dampening small businesses’ plans for growth.  Consistent with a MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index survey from last summer, a majority of small businesses say they are postponing growth plans because of high interest rates.  Inability to borrow at such high rates, combined with anxiety over inflation are enough to forecast frigid temperatures on Main Street.

Listen: Tom Sullivan and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)’s Holly Wade talk about their small business forecasts on a weekly podcast. Listen here.

Watch: Catch Tom Sullivan on ASBN (America’s Small Business Network) every month providing the latest small business policy updates, news, and analysis. Watch here.

Just released! The Q4 MetLife & U.S. Chamber Small Business Index was released on December 12, 2023.

Stand Up for Free Enterprise

Join us in standing up for American free enterprise.

Your voice is essential, and your participation is critical.

New Small Business Data

WalletHub Best & Worst States to Start a Business in 2024 (January 16, 2024)

Summary: Utah tops the list this year because of how easy it is to find business loans, its employment growth, and having the lowest average healthcare insurance premiums per enrolled employee in the country.

  • Best state to start a business is Utah, followed by Georgia, Florida, and Ohio.
  • The bottom four states to start a business are Rhode Island, Connecticut, Alaska, and Maryland.
  • The states experiencing highest average growth of small businesses are Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Florida.
  • The states experiencing the lowest average growth of small businesses are West Virginia, Missouri, Vermont, and New York.
  • The states providing most access to capital for small businesses are South Dakota & Utah (tied for first), North Dakota, and Iowa.
  • The states providing the least access to capital for small businesses are Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

Economic Innovation Group (EIG) Analysis of Business Formation Statistics (January 12, 2024)

Summary: 2023 marked the highest level of startups since the Census started tracking in 2005.

  • Americans filed 5.5 million applications to start new businesses in 2023 and nearly 1.8 million are likely to hire employees. 
  • 37% more business applications were filed in 2023 by likely employers than in 2019 (484,000 more  applications).
  • 2023 likely employer applications were 8% greater than last year’s filings. 
  • The largest percentage increase relative to 2019 was in the accommodation and food services sector (66% increase), followed by retail trade (55% increase), and health care and social assistance (45% increase).
  • The smallest increase relative to 2019 was in the arts and entertainment sector (3% increase), followed by the information sector (2% increase).
  • Startup numbers surged in the Mountain West and in the Southeast.

Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index December Data Insights (January 8, 2024)

Summary: Job growth in the smallest businesses is about where it was in October 2022 and none of the 8 regions in the U.S. experienced net job losses for those employers. 

  • Employment in American small businesses with 1-9 employees increased by 37,100 jobs in December (0.28% increase), reversing a downward trend that started in September.
  • The wholesale trade sector experienced the highest percentage job growth (0.37%), followed by finance and real estate (0.27%), education and health services (0.26%), and professional and business services (0.15%).
  • The transportation and warehousing sector shed jobs (-0.23%), along with utilities (-0.15%), the information sector (-0.1%), and the leisure and hospitality sector (-0.03%).
  • New England experienced the highest job growth in December (0.36%) and the only region without job growth was the Mid-Atlantic (NY, PA, NJ, DE, MD, DC).

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index (January 9, 2024)

Summary: Optimism for increased sales in rising, but small business owners remain anxious that inflation may outpace revenue. 

  • -11% of small business owners reported higher sales in the past 3-months (6 points higher than November) and the percentage expecting higher sales improved 4 points.
  • 23% of small business owners rank inflation as their biggest problem (1 point higher than November).
  • 25% of small businesses raised their prices in December (unchanged from November) and 32% are planning on raising prices in the next 3-months (2 points lower than November).
  • 58% of small business owners reported capital outlays in the last 6-months (down 3 points from November) and 24% are planning capital purchases in the next 3-months (up 1 point from November).
  • -36% of business owners are expecting better business conditions (6 points better than November).

WSJ / Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index (January 5, 2024)

Summary: Main Street’s prediction for a recession goes down making for a bullish survey.

  • 20% of small business owners say the economy has improved compared to 12-months ago (up 7 points from November) and 44% say that the economy has gotten worse over the past year (3 points less than November).
  • 57% of small businesses plan on increasing employees in 2024 (up 9 points from November). 
  • Hiring challenges impact the ability of 44% of small businesses to operate at full capacity (up 5 points from November).
  • 33% of small businesses expect to increase fixed investments in 2024 (up 2 points from November) and 21% plan to seek capital in 2024.
  • Small business views on whether the U.S. is in a recession have softened over the last month.  18% of small business owners say that a soft landing has occurred (up 7 points from November), 20% are saying we are in a recession (unchanged from November), and 27% say the country is approaching a recession (down 12 points from November).
  • 62% of small businesses are bullish about expected revenues in the next 12 months (up 5 points from November).  49% believe profitability will improve (up 7 points from November) and 18% believe that profitability will shrink (1 point lower than November).
  • 55% of small businesses expect to raise prices in 2024 (15 points lower than November) and 40% expect their prices to remain the same (15 points higher than November).

SBE Council Small Business Checkup Poll Q4 2024(December 20, 2023)

Summary: About half of small business owners view 2024 and their own firms’ performance in a positive light.  Concerns with inflation outpacing sales continue into the new year. 

  • 50% of small business owners reported their firms as profitable for 2023 and 61% have a positive outlook for their own business in 2024.
  • 55% of small business owners report that revenues have not kept up with inflation.
  • 34% of small business owners report sales growth in 2023 and 32% report a decline.
  • 31% report increased profitability in 2023 and 39% report a decline.
  • 71% of small business owners have a negative outlook on future economic conditions, with inflation topping the list of concerns (87% concerned that inflationary pressures will continue through 2024).
  • 71% of small business owners have taken or are planning on taking steps to prepare for a recession.
  • 32% of small business owners plan on increasing staff in the next 6 months and 50% will keep current staffing levels.  13% of small businesses plan on downsizing.
  • 68% of small business owners believe they will be operational in 2025.

MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index for Q4 (December 12, 2023)

Summary: Negativity towards the national economy continues, but confidence in small businesses’ own cash flow remains strong.

  • Index dropped 8 points from Q3 to a level of 61.3, returning to levels of confidence from earlier this year and consistent with Q4 in 2022.
  • A higher percentage of small businesses are negative about the U.S. economy (53%) (10 point increase from last quarter) and 25% are positive about economy’s overall health (8 point decrease).
  • This is the eighth consecutive quarter where inflation ranks as small businesses’ top concern (50%) and the second biggest concern is revenue (22%).
  • 42% of small businesses plan on increasing investment over the next 12-months (unchanged from the last 2 quarters) and 40% of small businesses plan on adding staff (unchanged from last quarter). The percentage of small businesses anticipating increased revenues remains elevated (65%) albeit 6 points lower than the last 2 quarters’ record highs.
  • 64% of small businesses believe the health of their own businesses is good (2 point decrease from last quarter) and 67% are comfortable with their current cash flow (5 point decrease, but consistent with Q4 of 2022).
  • 45% of small employers searched for new talent in 2023 and 60% of those employers said it was hard to keep up with salary expectations.

Explore More Small Business Data

The MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index is released quarterly to deliver a comprehensive quantitative snapshot of the small business sector and explore small business owners’ perspectives on the latest economic and business trends.

About the authors

Thomas M. Sullivan

Thomas M. Sullivan

Thomas M. Sullivan is vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Working with chambers of commerce and the U.S. Chamber’s nationwide network, Sullivan harnesses the views of small businesses and translates that grassroots power into federal policies that bolster free enterprise and reward entrepreneurship. He runs the U.S.

Read more