Small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) were a little less optimistic in April compared with the month before, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
A 1.3-point drop in CFIB's Business Barometer Index to 66.4 gave back most of the big gains seen in the March survey findings. But it is the second-best reading for the year and the first decline registered in the index since August 2011.
Measured on a scale between zero and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expect their businesses' performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance.
"For the most part, overall survey findings still point to stable business conditions and a modestly growing economy," said Ted Malett, chief economist and vice-president at CFIB. "The outlooks for business owners, both by sector and by region, show very little relative change in April, which is also another sign of general stability."
Business owners in Alberta (73.3) and Saskatchewan (72.1) continue to be the most optimistic in the country, found the survey of 807 CFIB members. The surge in optimism in Ontario in March was partially corrected in April — back to 67.1.
Business sentiment in New Brunswick (68.0), British Columbia (66.9), Newfoundland and Labrador (61.9) and Prince Edward Island (62.2) improved. Optimism, however, fell back markedly in Manitoba to 65.2, while also dropping slightly in Nova Scotia (63.0) and Quebec (63.9).
"There was little change in the relative ranking of optimism by industry," said Mallett. "Manufacturers remain the most positive by a significant amount and confidence in the natural resources industries, business services and the health and education sectors are also above the average. Those in personal services and hospitality are at the low end of the index — around the 60 mark."
Hiring plans were positive in April with 21 per cent of business owners planning to increase full-time positions over the next three or four months, while 12 per cent plan to reduce them.
"Increased confidence in hiring is certainly strongly influenced by seasonal factors. The good news is that when compared to the results from this time last year, they are better than in April 2011," he said.
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