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NFIB Releases Industry-Specific Small Business Economic Trends Report

September 07, 2021, 07:10 AM
Filed Under: Economic Reports

The NFIB Research Center released a quarterly Small Business Economic Trends industry report highlighting the construction, manufacturing, retail and services industries. NFIB’s July Small Business Economic Trends report showed the overall Optimism Index at 99.7.

“Small businesses are working hard to recover from the pandemic while still facing strong headwinds,” said Holly Wade, Executive Director of NFIB’s Research Center. “Each industry is recovering differently but all have been impacted by the lack of qualified workers and for many, supply chain disruptions.”

Key findings include:


  • The Optimism Index for July was 98.8, up 1.4 points from April’s quarterly report but behind the overall Optimism Index by 0.9 points.
  • Small business owners in the construction industry had the highest percentage of unfilled job openings among all industries at 61 percent.
  • The demand for new construction remains high-driven by historically low interest rates however, the struggle to hire qualified workers had led to an inability to form work teams and begin permitted projects to meet demand.
  • Fifty-nine percent of the job openings in the industry are for skilled workers and 66 percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants.
  • Sixty-five percent of construction firms reported raising prices in July.
  • Earnings trends in construction fell 12 points from the previous quarter to a net negative 22 percent.


  • The July Optimism Index for manufacturing was 105.2, up from 104.8 in April and 5.5 points above the overall Optimism Index, showing that the manufacturing industry continues to be more optimistic compared to other industries in its recovery from the pandemic.
  • Sixty percent of manufacturing firms reported unfilled job openings, second only to the construction industry and 11 percentage points higher than overall.
  • A net 41 percent of firms plan to create new jobs in the next three months, 14 percentage points higher than the overall small business economy.
  • A net 9 percent of manufacturing owners expect higher sales in the next three months, compared to a net negative 4 percent overall.


  • The retail industry’s July Optimism Index was 100.4, 0.7 points higher than overall but down two points from April.
  • Earnings trends in retail fell 11 points from the previous quarter to a net negative 9 percent.
  • Retail owners’ expectations about economic conditions over the next six months declined nine points to a net negative 22 percent.
  • A net 20 percent of retailers report current inventory levels “too low,” compared to a net 12 percent of all small businesses.
  • The retail industry is increasing inventory levels as a net 13 percent plan to increase inventories over the next three to six months, seven points above all firms.


  • The service sector Optimism Index increased in July to 100.2, 0.5 points above the overall index.
  • Retail owners are concerned about future sales over the next three months as the net percent of owners expecting higher sales fell 11 points from April to a net negative 1 percent of owners.
  • A net negative 19 percent expect better business conditions six months from now, a decline of 11 points from April.

The full survey is available here.

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