Thomas M. Sullivan Thomas M. Sullivan
Vice President, Small Business Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Updated

May 20, 2024

Published

December 12, 2023

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Sales revenues are expected to rise, but small businesses are not bullish on higher profits that can be used for expansion. New data from American Express sheds some light on record-breaking start-up growth, with 95% of small business owners happy with their decision to be their own boss.

Listen: Tom Sullivan and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)'s Holly Wade talk about their small business forecasts on a weekly podcast. Listen here.

Watch: Catch Tom Sullivan on ASBN (America's Small Business Network) every month, providing the latest small business news and policy updates. Watch here.

Coming Soon! The Q2 2024 MetLife & U.S. Chamber Small Business Index will be released in June 2024.

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New Small Business Data

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index(May 14, 2024)

Summary: Expectations for improved sales rise and overall growth forecast levels out due to cost pressures.

  • 13% of small business owners reported higher sales in the past 3-months (3 points worse than March) and the percentage expecting higher sales improved 6 points to 12%.
  • 22% of small business owners ranked inflation as their top concern, (down 3 points from March and still the top cited problem) and 19% of small business owners ranked labor quality as their top problem in April (1 point higher than March).
  • 25% of small businesses raised their prices in April (down 3 points) and 26% are planning on raising prices in the next 3-months (down 7 points from March).
  • 56% of small business owners reported capital outlays in the last 6-months (no change from March) and 22% are planning capital purchases in the next 3-months (up 2 points from March).
  • 9% of small business owners are expecting better credit conditions in the next 3-monts (1 point worse than March).
  • 60% of small business owners are not interested in a loan (1 point higher than March) and 31% report borrowing on a regular basis (up 3 points from March).
  • 4% of small business owners believe the next 3-months are a good time to expand (unchanged from March and down 4-points from January).

American Express Amex Trendex: Small Business Edition (May 8, 2024)

Summary: Entrepreneurs love being small business owners even with strong headwinds.

  • 95% of small business owners are happy with their decision to start their company.
  • 84% of owners started their small business because of personal passion. 65% started their business because of a need in their community.  59% started their business to support their family and future generations, and 44% started their business because they needed more flexibility.
  • 60% of small business owners expect to run their business for more than 5 years.
  • Rising prices are the top concern of small business owners and those inflationary pressures are greatest in labor costs (81%) followed by commercial insurance (68%), goods & inputs (67%), employee benefits (including health insurance) (63%), and access to capital (57%). 

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices Survey (April 30, 2024)

Summary: Inflationary pressures are increasing for small businesses.

  • 31% of small business owners describe the U.S. economy as “excellent or good.”  39% describe the economy as “fair,” and 29% view it as “poor or very poor.”
  • 64% of small business owners report operating at or above pre-pandemic levels.
  • 33% of small business owners view finding and keeping good employees as their most significant problem. 26% view inflation as their top problem, followed by affordable employee benefits (18%) and access to capital (16%).
  • 71% of small business owners report that inflationary pressures have increased over the past 3-months. 
  • 96% of small business owners report they will vote in the presidential election, and 20% are undecided on who they will support (compared to 12% of the general public who are undecided).
  • 55% of small business owners are dissatisfied with how the presidential candidates are addressing small business issues. 73% want the candidates to address inflation.  72% want the candidates to address tax policy, and 70% want the candidates to address the regulatory burden on small businesses. 66% want access to capital addressed, followed by workforce training (59%).

Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Success Month Survey (May 1, 2024)

Summary: A fascinating exploration of motivation and satisfaction among small business owners.  

  • 64% of small business owners believe they are on track to meet their earnings goals this year, and 19% believe they are running behind.
  • “Providing for myself/my family” is the number one reason small business owners feel successful. Followed by “building a good reputation,” “hitting my financial goals,” and “achieving work/life balance.”
  • 86% of small business owners report that business ownership has helped them meet their personal financial goals.
  • 68% of small business owners believe their local communities support them by telling their friends and family.  61% experience that support through positive reviews, and 57% experience that support when locals choose their business over larger businesses (55% of revenue comes from their local communities).
  • 85% of small business owners support local charities, with food banks being the most popular (36%), followed by education programs (35%) and environmental initiatives (34%).
  • 62% of small business owners have previously started or owned a business, and 55% were driven towards business ownership to make better money. 54% cite their primary motivation to own a business as being their own boss, and 50% say they’re business owners to improve work/life balance. 
  • The top cause for satisfaction among small business owners is being their own boss (23%), followed by work/life balance (19%).  Financial stability (17%) ranks alongside enjoying the people they work with (17%) and flexibility (17%).

WSJ / Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index (April 24, 2024)

Summary: The monthly index continues a downward slide with hiring expectations dipping due to inflationary wage pressure. Revenue and profit expectations shrink, but investment plans hold steady.

  • 24% of small business owners say the economy has improved compared to 12 months ago (down 3 points from March), and 32% say that the economy has gotten worse over the past year (5 points worse than March).
  • 24% of small business owners believe the economy will improve in the next 12 months (down 2 points from March), and 26% believe the economy will worsen (4 points worse than March).
  • 48% of small businesses plan on increasing employees in the next 12 months (down 6 points from March). 
  • 34% of small businesses expect to increase fixed investments in the next year (unchanged from March).
  • 60% of small businesses expect increased revenues in the next 12 months (2 points less than March). 
  • 46% believe profitability will improve (down 2 points from March), and 20% of small business owners believe profitability will decrease (3 points worse than March).

MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index for Q1 (April 2, 2024)

Summary: Negative feelings about the economy lessen for Main Street, and inflation remains front and center on small business owners’ radar.

  • 33% of small business owners are positive about the national economy’s overall health (increased 8 points since last quarter) and 48% are negative about the U.S. economy (5 points less negative than last quarter).
  • 38% of small business owners are positive about their local economy (8 points higher since last quarter) and 30% have a negative view of their local economy (2 points less negative than last quarter).
  • 52% of small business owners rank inflation at their top concern (9th consecutive quarter at top). 
  • 16% of small business owners added staff in the past year (down 1 point from last quarter and down 3 points from a year ago).
  • 36% of small businesses plan on increasing investment over the next 12-months (6 points lower than last quarter) and 34% of small businesses plan on adding staff (6 points lower than last quarter).
  • The percentage of small businesses anticipating increased revenues remains elevated (67%) albeit 4 points lower than the last 2 quarters’ record highs.
  • 65% of small businesses believe the health of their own businesses is good (1 point increase from last quarter) and 67% are comfortable with their current cash flow (no change from last quarter).
  • 60% of small business owners are concerned about cyber threats and 48% have trained staff on cybersecurity safety measures.
  • 62% of small business owners contribute to a “rainy-day fund” in anticipation of a crisis or threat and 61% feel comfortable about their ability to withstand a disaster. 


Explore More Small Business Data

The MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index is released quarterly to deliver a comprehensive quantitative snapshot of the small business sector and explore small business owners’ perspectives on the latest economic and business trends.

About the authors

Thomas M. Sullivan

Thomas M. Sullivan

Thomas M. Sullivan is vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Working with chambers of commerce and the U.S. Chamber’s nationwide network, Sullivan harnesses the views of small businesses and translates that grassroots power into federal policies that bolster free enterprise and reward entrepreneurship. He runs the U.S.

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