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NFIB NFIB S MALL S MALL B USINESS B USINESS E CONOMIC E CONOMIC T
NFIB NFIB S MALL S MALL B USINESS B USINESS E CONOMIC E CONOMIC T

NFIB NFIB SMALL SMALL BUSINESS BUSINESS

ECONOMIC ECONOMIC TRENDS TRENDS

William C. Dunkelberg Holly Wade

May 2011

Based on a Survey of Small and Independent Business Owners

SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM INDEX COMPONENTS

 

Seasonally

Change From

Contribution

Index Component

Adjusted Level

Last Month

Index Change

Plans to Increase Employment

2%

0

*

Plans to Make Capital Outlays

21%

-3

*

Plans to Increase Inventories

-1%

-2

*

Expect Economy to Improve

-8%

-3

*

Expect Real Sales Higher

5%

-1

*

Current Inventory

1%

2

*

Current Job Openings

14%

-1

*

xpected Credit Conditions

-13%

-4

*

Now a Good Time to Expand

4%

-1

*

Earnings Trend

-26%

6

*

Total Change

 

-7

*

Column 1 is the current reading; column 2 is the change from the prior month; column 3 the percent of the total change accounted for by each component; * is under 1 percent and not a meaningful calculation.

NFIB SMALL BUSINESS

ECONOMIC TRENDS

NFIB S MALL B USINESS E CONOMIC T RENDS

The NFIB Research Foundation has collected Small Business Economic Trends Data with Quar- terly surveys since 1973 and monthly surveys since 1986. The sample is drawn from the membership files of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Each was mailed a question- naire and one reminder. Subscriptions for twelve monthly SBET issues are $250. Historical and unadjusted data are available, along with a copy of the questionnaire, from the NFIB Research Foundation. You may reproduce Small Business Economic Trends items if you cite the publica- tion name and date and note it is a copyright of the NFIB Research Foundation. © NFIB Research Foundation. ISBS #0940791-24-2. Chief Econo- mist William C. Dunkelberg and Policy Analyst Holly Wade are responsible for the report.

IN THIS ISSUE

Wade are responsible for the report. I N T HIS I SSUE Summary . . .

Summary

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Optimism

 

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Outlook

 

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Earnings .

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Sales .

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Prices

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Compensation

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Credit

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Inventories

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Capital

Outlays.

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Most Important Problem

 

18

Survey Profile

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Economic

 

20

SUMMARY

1 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

OPTIMISM INDEX The Small Business Optimism Index fell 0.7 points in April to 91.2, not much but still a disappointing outcome following the March decline. After last month’s larger decline, this month is more akin to an “after shock”. Thankfully, the labor market components did not decline further, although net job creation weakened. Also, fewer reported adverse profit trends and reports of positive sales trends were still less frequent than reports of quarterly declines, but the best reading since December 2007, the peak of the last expansion.

LABOR MARKETS Fourteen (14) percent (seasonally adjusted) reported unfilled job openings (down 1 point). Over the next three months, 16 percent plan to increase employment (down 2 points), and 6 percent plan to reduce their workforce (unchanged), yielding a seasonally adjusted net 2 percent of owners planning to create new jobs, unchanged from March but a very weak reading.

CAPITAL SPENDING

The frequency of reported capital outlays over the past six months fell 1 point to 50 percent of all firms. Of those making expenditures, 35 percent reported spending on new equipment (up 1 point), 18 percent acquired vehicles (up 1 point), and 11 percent improved or expanded facilities (down 1 point). Three percent acquired new buildings or land for expansion (down 1 point) and 11 percent spent money for new fixtures and furniture (unchanged). Capital spending remains historically low in spite of very low interest rates and all sorts of expensing incentives. The problem is that “cheaper” equipment is still no bargain if you can’t use it.

The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next three to six months fell 3 points to 21 percent, a recession level reading. Money is cheap, but most owners are not interested in a loan to finance equipment they don’t need. Prospects are still uncertain enough to discourage any but the most profitable and promising investments. Four percent characterized the current period as a good time to expand facilities (seasonally adjusted), down 1 point from March and 4 points lower than January. The net percent of owners expecting better business conditions in 6 months slipped another 3 points to negative 8 percent, 18 percentage points worse than in January. Uncertainty is the enemy, and there is plenty of it to convince owners to “keep their powder dry”. Apparently consumers feel much the same way, as more customers spending more money would overcome the reluctance of owners to hire and make capital outlays. One in four still cite “weak sales” as their top business problem.

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

This survey was conducted in April 2011. A sample of 10,799 small-business owners/members was drawn. One thousand nine hundred ten (1985) usable responses were received – a response rate of 18 percent.

SUMMARY

2 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

INVENTORIES AND SALES The net percent of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reporting higher nominal sales over the past three months did improve by 7 percentage point to a net negative 5 percent, the best reading in 40 months. But consumer sentiment is stuck in the mud as gas and food prices continue to rise, and many consumers still suffer from heavy debt and mortgage payments which depress their spending. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales fell 1 point to a net 5 percent of all owners (seasonally adjusted), 8 points below January’s reading. This is bad news for hiring and inventory investment. A net negative 9 percent of all owners reported growth in inventories (seasonally adjusted), a 2 point deterioration. Small business owners continued to liquidate inventories but at one of the lowest frequency in 35 months. For all firms, a net 1 percent (up 2 points) reported stocks too low, historically one of the most “satisfied” readings in survey history. Owners are happy with current stocks, but that is relative to expected sales which are not strong. Plans to add to inventories lost 2 points, falling to a net negative 1 percent of all firms (seasonally adjusted), consistent with the strong reading on satisfaction with current stocks.

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

INFLATION

In April, the percentage rose to 12 percent, a gain of 36 percentage points from the low reading in 2009 and, a more recent perspective, 23 points higher than last September. A net 24 percent planned hikes in average selling prices in April. The “fire sale” is over and selling prices are now on the rise, giving a boost to profit trends in April (although much more is needed).

PROFITS AND WAGES Reports of positive earnings trends improved 6 points in April, registering a net negative 26 percent, still an ugly number but sales trends improved and fewer owners cut selling prices, both positive for the bottom line. Seasonally adjusted, a net 9 percent reported raising worker compensation, up 2 points. A seasonally adjusted 7 percent plan to raise compensation, down 2 points.

CREDIT MARKETS

Overall, 92 percent reported that all their credit needs were met or that they were not interested in borrowing. Eight percent reported that not all of their credit needs were satisfied. Three percent reported financing as their #1 business problem, so “credit supply” is not a problem for the overwhelming majority. For the banks with money to lend, “credit demand” is weak. The historically high percent of owners who cite weak sales means that, for many owners, investments in new equipment or new workers are not likely to “pay back”. This is a major cause for the lack of credit demand observed in financial markets along with the deficiency in housing starts, a million units below “normal”. Thirty-two percent of all owners reported borrowing on a regular basis, 4 points above the record low.

COMMENTARY

3 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

The “get up and go” usually present in the small business sector after a recession “got up and went” somewhere. For the small business sector, this is the worst recovery on record. The recovery in the small business indicators looks especially anemic in comparison to the recovery after the 1980-82 recession period, the era with a depth most comparable to our most recent experience. The explanation for this is murky and complex, driven by the “seeds of destruction” planted in the 2003-07 expansion. When stock market bubbles burst, winners and losers are quickly identified and the economy moves on as the redistribution in wealth is efficiently imposed by the market. This time around, the process of declaring winners and losers is impeded by the complications of mortgage finance concocted by the financial market and the efforts of the government to prevent the redistribution required.

Houses are more widely held than stocks and the crash has impacted many more people and reached far down the income distribution, impacting attitudes as well as the ability to spend. Savers’ incomes have been impaired by the Fed’s low rate policies. The over-supply of houses, business facilities and inventory weigh heavily on new construction and until recently, production. Although much lower, the ratio of consumer debt to income is still high, families not actually in foreclosure are still saddled with high mortgage payments.

And then there’s Washington. Enough said, not enough room to detail the detrimental impact of the uncertainty created by “leadership” there.

Unemployment remains high because in the boom, employment was too high and especially in construction where excessive levels of employees created such high output that it impeded their re-employment in the recovery. The much vaunted “risk managers” at financial institutions failed, and their institutions would have as well had they not been “bailed out”. Owners report that inventories are now in balance with expected sales, but these expectations are muted, providing little reason to hire more workers. Capital spending remains low because the prospects of generating the additional sales needed to pay off loans used to finance expansion are not good. Selling prices are rising sharply not because costs are rising but because the “fire sale” needed to bring inventories and excess retail capacity into balance is about over. New construction and services are labor intensive and dominated by small firms. Spending must recover here to get employment up and running. Maybe after consumers are through buying cars they will get their nails done.

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

OVERVIEW - SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM

4 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

OPTIMISM INDEX

Based on Ten Survey Indicators

(Seasonally Adjusted 1986=100)

110 100 90 80 70 75 77 79 81 83 85 87 89 91 93
110
100
90
80
70
75
77
79
81
83
85
87
89
91
93
95
97
99
01
03
05
07
09
11
Index Value (1986=100)

YEAR

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

OPTIMISM INDEX

Based on Ten Survey Indicators

(Seasonally Adjusted 1986=100)

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006 101.5

101.1

98.0

100.1

98.5

96.7

98.1

95.9

99.4

100.7

99.7

96.5

98.9

2007 97.3

98.2

96.8

97.2

96.0

97.6

96.3

97.3

96.2

94.4

94.6

91.8

2008 89.6

92.9

91.5

89.3

89.2

88.2

91.1

92.9

87.5

87.8

85.2

84.1

2009 81.0

82.6

86.8

88.9

87.8

86.5

88.6

88.8

89.1

88.3

88.0

89.3

2010 86.8

88.0

90.6

92.2

89.0

88.1

88.8

89.0

91.7

93.2

92.6

94.1

2011 91.9

94.5

91.2

         

SMALL BUSINESS OUTLOOK

OUTLOOK

Good Time to Expand and Expected General Business Conditions

January Quarter 1974 to April Quarter 2011 (Seasonally Adjusted)

30 80 60 20 40 20 10 0 -20 0 -40 74 76 78 80
30
80
60
20
40
20
10
0
-20
0
-40
74 76
78
80
82
84 86
88
90
92
94 96
98
00
02
04 06
08
10
Percent "Good
(thick Time
line) to Expand"
Percent "Better" Minus "Worse"
Expected General
Business Conditions (thin line)

YEAR

SMALL BUSINESS OUTLOOK (CONTINUED)

5 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

OUTLOOK FOR EXPANSION

Percent Next Three Months “Good Time to Expand”

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

20

20

19

18

18

13

16

13

18

20

17

17

2007

17

18

12

12

12

13

16

12

14

14

13

14

2008

9

8

5

6

4

4

6

6

11

5

7

7

2009

     

631454559787

       

2010

     

542456546798

       

2011

 

8754

           

MOST IMPORTANT REASON FOR EXPANSION OUTLOOK

Reason Percent by Expansion Outlook

April 2011

Reason

Good Time

Not Good Time

Uncertain

Economic Conditions

3

45

17

Sales Prospects

 

242

 

Fin. & Interest Rates

 

121

 

Cost of Expansion

 

022

 

Political Climate

 

086

 

Other/Not Available

 

111

 

OUTLOOK FOR GENERAL BUSINESS CONDITIONS

Net Percent (“Better” Minus “Worse”) Six Months From Now

(Seasonally Adjusted)

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

6

2006 -5

3

-3

-10

-8

-6

-8

2

11

11

12

2007 -1

-2

-7

-8

-3

-5

-1

0

2

-2

-10

-4

2008 -22

-9

-23

-12

-12

-19

-17

4

14

-4

-2

-13

2009 -12

-21

-22

2

12

7

-3

10

8

11

3

2

2010 -9

1

-8

0

8

-6

-15

-8

-3

8

16

9

10

2011 -5

9

-8

         

SMALL BUSINESS EARNINGS

6 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

EARNINGS

Actual Last Three Months

January Quarter 1974 to April Quarter 2011 (Seasonally Adjusted)

0 -10 -20 -30 -40 -50 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90
0
-10
-20
-30
-40
-50
74
76
78
80
82
84
86
88
90
92
94
96
98
00
02
04
06
08
10
Net Percent

YEAR

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

ACTUAL EARNINGS CHANGES

Net Percent (“Higher” Minus “Lower”) Last Three Months Compared to Prior Three Months

(Seasonally Adjusted)

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006 -16

-15

-12

-13

-11

11

-16

-19

-8

-14

-18

-15

2007 -21

-19

-15

-19

-15

-18

-17

-22

-20

-18

-25

-20

2008 -27

-25

-33

-28

-28

-33

-37

-30

-35

-35

-38

-42

2009 -47

-44

-46

-43

-43

-42

-45

-40

-40

-40

-43

-43

2010 -42

-39

-43

-31

-28

-32

-33

-30

-33

-26

-30

-34

2011 -28

-27

-32

-26

               

MOST IMPORTANT REASON FOR LOWER EARNINGS

Percent Reason

April 2011

Reason

Current Month

One Year Ago

Two Years Ago

Sales Volume

21

29

36

Increased Costs*

13

9

8

Cut Selling Prices

 

434

 

Usual Seasonal Change

 

656

 

Other

 

326

 

* Increased costs include labor, materials, finance, taxes, and regulatory costs.

SMALL BUSINESS SALES

7 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

SALES

Actual (Prior Three Months) and Expected (Subsequent Three Months)

January 1974 to April 2011 (Seasonally Adjusted)

50 40 30 20 10 0 -10 -20 Expected -30 Actual -40 74 76 78
50
40
30
20
10
0
-10
-20
Expected
-30
Actual
-40
74
76
78
80
82
84
86
88
90
92
94
96
98
00
02
04
06
08
10
Net Percent

YEAR

ACTUAL SALES CHANGES

Net Percent (“Higher” Minus “Lower”) Last Three Months Compared to Prior Three Months

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

2

6

5

6

11

6

3

2

5

2

0

3

2007

-3

-1

0

4

1

-4

-1

-4

-4

-4

-3

1

2008

-7

-8

-11

-9

-11

-12

-15

-10

-11

-21

-25

-29

2009

-31

-28

-34

-28

-33

-34

-34

-27

-26

-31

-31

-25

2010

-26

-26

-25

-15

-11

-15

-16

-16

-17

-13

-15

-16

2011

-11

-11

-12

-5

         
 

SALES EXPECTATIONS

 
 

Net Percent (“Higher” Minus “Lower”) During Next Three Months

 
 

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 
 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

24

28

12

21

20

13

18

10

17

17

21

18

2007

22

17

14

14

16

11

14

13

14

13

8

6

2008

4

0

-3

-3

-11

-11

-9

-6

-2

-16

-14

-18

2009

-20

-29

-31

-11

-5

-10

-11

-5

-6

-4

-2

-1

2010

3

0

-3

6

5

-5

-4

0

-3

1

6

8

2011

13

14

6

5

         
Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

SMALL BUSINESS PRICES

8 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

PRICES

Actual Last Three Months and Planned Next Three Months

January Quarter 1974 to April Quarter 2011 (Seasonally Adjusted)

70 60 Actual 50 Planned 40 30 20 10 0 -10 -20 -30 74 76
70
60
Actual
50
Planned
40
30
20
10
0
-10
-20
-30
74
76
78
80
82
84
86
88
90
92
94
96
98
00
02
04
06
08
10
Net Percent

YEAR

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

ACTUAL PRICE CHANGES

Net Percent (“Higher” Minus “Lower”) Compared to Three Months Ago

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

18

23

17

26

24

23

23

22

20

16

17

8

2007

12

13

15

18

16

19

19

13

9

15

14

16

2008

8

13

18

20

23

29

32

26

20

15

0

-6

2009

-15

-24

-23

-24

-22

-17

-19

-19

-21

-17

-17

-22

2010

-18

-21

-20

-11

-15

-13

-11

-8

-11

-5

-4

-5

2011

-4

5

9

12

         
 

PRICE PLANS

 
 

Net Percent (“Higher” Minus “Lower”) in the Next Three Months

 
 

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 
 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

29

27

26

28

30

29

30

29

22

21

22

26

2007

24

23

22

24

23

21

23

22

21

22

26

26

2008

26

22

29

31

32

36

38

30

24

18

11

3

2009

     

210135586543

       

2010

8

10

9

13

14

11

10

10

7

12

13

15

2011

19

21

24

24

         

SMALL BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT

ACTUAL EMPLOYMENT CHANGES

Net Percent (“Increase” Minus “Decrease”) in the Last Three Months

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

1

4

-1

-3

-3

-2

2

5

-3

5

0

3

2007

2

4

-6

-5

-2

0

1

4

-1

3

0

2

2008

0

-3

-7

-9

-10

-12

-5

-4

-10

-9

-10

-18

2009

-15

-15

-22

-25

-24

-23

-17

-16

-16

-12

-12

-12

2010

-10

-9

-11

-12

-12

-10

-5

-2

-3

-6

-2

-1

2011

-4

-2

-4

-6

               
 

QUALIFIED APPLICANTS FOR JOB OPENINGS

 
 

Percent Few or No Qualified Applicants

 
 

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 
 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

40

40

39

41

46

45

42

46

44

46

44

40

2007

41

41

43

43

42

45

43

44

48

46

40

37

2008

37

36

36

37

33

39

36

35

38

35

31

30

2009

*

*

24

24

25

27

26

23

25

25

28

21

2010

24

26

23

26

26

25

28

32

30

28

27

28

2011

28

30

29

32

               

EMPLOYMENT

Planned Next Three Months and Current Job Openings

January Quarter 1974 to April Quarter 2011 (Seasonally Adjusted)

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report
40 30 20 10 Planned 0 Job Openings -10 74 76 78 80 82 84
40
30
20
10
Planned
0
Job Openings
-10
74
76
78
80
82
84
86
88
90
92
94
96
98
00
02
04
06
08
10
YEAR
Percent
9 | NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

SMALL BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT (CONTINUED)

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

JOB OPENINGS

Percent With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

26

26

23

31

25

25

24

25

25

27

22

19

2007

26

25

26

26

24

26

23

25

25

22

19

21

2008

24

20

19

21

15

21

17

15

18

14

14

14

2009

11

11

10

9

9

11

9

8

8

8

8

10

2010

10

11

9

11

9

9

10

11

11

10

9

13

2011

13

15

15

14

               
 

HIRING PLANS

 
 

Net Percent (“Increase” Minus “Decrease”) in the Next Three Months

 
 

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 
 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

17

16

9

16

14

9

15

17

17

16

19

10

2007

17

13

12

13

13

12

13

15

14

11

11

11

2008

9

11

3

5

2

5

5

9

7

0

-4

-6

2009

-6

-3

-10

-5

-5

-1

-3

0

-4

-1

-3

-2

2010

-1

-1

-2

-1

1

1

2

1

-3

1

4

6

2011

 

3522

                   

SMALL BUSINESS COMPENSATION

COMPENSATION

Actual Last Three Months and Planned Next Three Months

January 1986 to April 2011 (Seasonally Adjusted)

40 35 30 25 20 15 10 Planned Higher 5 Actual Higher 0 -5 86
40
35
30
25
20
15
10
Planned Higher
5
Actual Higher
0
-5
86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 102011
YEAR
10
| NFIB Small Business Economic Trends
Net Percent

SMALL BUSINESS COMPENSATION (CONTINUED)

| NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

11

ACTUAL COMPENSATION CHANGES

Net Percent (“Increase” Minus “Decrease”) During Last Three Months

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

25

24

22

27

24

22

24

25

28

23

25

21

2007

26

30

28

26

29

26

27

24

27

26

21

24

2008

25

23

24

20

15

20

18

18

17

15

13

9

2009

7

1

0

0

0

-2

1

1

3

0

0

3

2010

1

-2

0

3

2

4

3

3

3

4

8

8

2011

10

8

7

9

               
 

COMPENSATION PLANS

 
 

Net Percent (“Increase” Minus “Decrease”) in the Next Three Months

 
 

(Seasonally Adjusted)

 
 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2006

16

20

16

19

15

14

17

16

16

18

20

17

2007

16

19

19

18

16

15

16

14

19

16

15

14

2008

12

12

15

14

8

12

12

11

10

9

10

4

2009

 

330213433511

                   

2010

 

163543563553

                   

2011

 

5797

                   

PRICES AND LABOR COMPENSATION

Net Percent Price Increase and Net Percent Compensation Increase

(Seasonally Adjusted)

40 70 35 60 50 30 40 25 30 20 20 10 15 0 10
40
70
35
60
50
30
40
25
30
20
20
10
15
0
10
-10
5
-20
-30
0
74
76
78
80
82
84
86
88
90
92
94
96
98
00
02
04
06
08
10
Prices (Thick Line)
Labor Compensation (Thin Line)

YEAR

Quarterly Report
Quarterly Report

SMALL BUSINESS CREDIT CONDITIONS

| NFIB Small Business Economic Trends

CREDIT CONDITIONS

Loan Availability Compared to Three Months Ago*

January Quarter 1974 to April Quarter 2011

4 0 -4 -8 -12 -16 -20 -24 -28 -32 74 76 78 80 82
4
0
-4
-8
-12
-16
-20
-24
-28
-32
74
76
78
80
82
84
86
88
90