After a lacklustre November and December, Canadian small and medium businesses are feeling more optimistic in early 2013, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
Full-time hiring plans are far better than seasonal norms, with 26 per cent of businesses expecting to hire additional staff in the next few months, and only six per cent planning to cut back, found the Business Barometer index.
The index continued January's upward trend by rising another one-half point to 66.2 in February.
"For the first time in awhile, small business owners are reporting index numbers that indicate the economy is growing nearer its potential," said Ted Mallett, CFIB's chief economist and vice-president. "The January and February results suggest Canadians are seeing modest, but widespread economic growth."
Small business owners in Alberta (71) remain the most optimistic in Canada, although Saskatchewan (69.8) and Newfoundland and Labrador (67) are not far behind. Ontario (65.3), Nova Scotia (65.3), British Columbia (64.9), Quebec (64.6), Manitoba (63.4), and New Brunswick (62.2) are all slightly below the national average. Prince Edward Island (54.1) saw a noticeable decline in business confidence.
"Despite talk of a 'bitumen bubble', small business confidence is strong in Alberta, and getting stronger across most of Canada," said Mallett. "That view is buttressed by positive expectations for full-time job growth."
Measured on a scale of zero and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their businesses' performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance.
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