Small business owners' optimism ticks up, still trails pre-pandemic levels: survey

Small business owners' optimism ticks up, still trails pre-pandemic levels: survey

The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Survey reveals an uptick in optimism from some owners regarding the pandemic's impact on their livelihood, though overall positivity remains far below pre-pandemic outlooks.

Results from the fourth quarter survey show small business owners are notably more optimistic about the future compared to responses in April and slightly more hopeful than in July.

While the index score of 72 for the fourth quarter shows a positive increase from 60 in the third quarter, it remains dramatically lower than the pre-pandemic high of 142 one year ago.

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The index breaks down small-business owners' current and projected optimism on their company's critical financial components: general financial situation, revenue, cash flow, capital spending, hiring and access to credit.

The fourth-quarter results reflected a continued pattern of optimism on the part of owners since around the start of the pandemic.

Outlooks dipped in the second quarter this year, likely due to multiple state lockdowns and pandemic measures during the first COVID-19 wave. During that period, respondents averaged an index score of just 9 for future expectations, while at the time reporting a present situation score of 39.

Regarding owners' financial situations, seven in 10 said they are currently optimistic about their finances, and nearly as many said they are confident about the future. Both ratings have improved since April but remain far below pre-pandemic levels.

While general outlooks appear to be slowly trending upwards, on average nearly 46 percent of owners said their revenues decreased over the past 12 months, compared to 30 percent who reported increases.

The survey was conducted based on web interviews with 600 small-business owners, with most making between $50,000 and $2 million in revenue. The survey was conducted Nov. 6-13, just days after the presidential election and as positive news regarding a COVID-19 vaccine was announced.