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


May 30, 2023


The Latest Forecast

Weather still does not look great.  The forecast is cloudy with the sun trying desperately to break through.

What it means: High inflation is beating down small businesses, but negotiations between Congress and the White House to make sure the U.S. does not default on its debt is reason to hope for the sunshine to break through soon.

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.

Explore key takeaways from the latest small business reports below. The next MetLife & U.S. Chamber Small Business Index release is Wednesday, June 28, 2023.

New Small Business Data

American Express Small Business Financial Confidence Report (May 25, 2023)

Summary: Small business owners are AI users and want to use more for minimizing time spent on administrative and accounting tasks. 

  • 54% of small businesses are very confident in their decision-making related to growth strategy, with larger small businesses more confident than their micro-business counterparts.
  • 72% of small business owners use cash-flow management tools to run their business and increasingly rely on those tools for real time performance measurements.
  • 50% of small businesses are hiring and the most common hiring tools are online job postings and social media recruiting. 
  • 41% of small business owners say they are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help make business decisions and 65% would consider using AI in the future.

Shopify Entrepreneurship Index (May 16, 2023)

Summary: The Newly Created Index measures and ranks economic activity spurred by merchants in Shopify’s ecosystem (approx.11% of ecommerce market) in each of the states and in 40 countries. 

  • The United States tops the Shopify Index (11% increase in total jobs supported since 2021), followed by Lithuania and Romania.
  • Within the United States, California ranked 3rd in the Shopify Index, behind Delaware and Wyoming.
  • Nearly 1/3 of Shopify merchants are building their businesses in rural parts of the United States and export growth surged in South Dakota (growth of 336% since 2021), Montana (growth of 135.5% since 2021), and Nevada (growth of 109% since 2021).
  • Ecommerce is proving to be resilient in Eastern Europe despite economic turmoil and the war in Ukraine.  Lithuania ranks second.  Romania ranks third, and the Czech Republic ranks 5th.
  • Japan ranks 10th, the highest in the Asia region.

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices Survey (May 4, 2023)

Summary: Anxiety over raising the debt limit is impacting Main Street.

  • 77% of small business owners are concerned with access to capital and 60% report that higher interest rates are impacting their ability to service existing business debt.
  • 90% of small business owners think it is important that the U.S. not default on its debt and 81% believe it is important for Congress to enact spending cuts in conjunction with raising the debt ceiling.
  • 44% of small business owners believe the economy has gotten worse in the past 3-months.  39% believe the economy has stayed the same and 15% believe the economy has gotten better.
  • 59% of small businesses are hiring and 78% of those are having difficulty recruiting qualified candidates.
  • 80% of small business owners believe access to childcare is a barrier to workforce participation. 

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index (May 9, 2023)

Summary: Small business Optimism Index hit a 10-year low . Rough report, with lower sales, lower profits, and lower expectations.  Capital is tighter, but most small businesses aren’t seeking loans. 

  • -9% of small business owners reported higher sales in the past 3-months (3 points worse than March) and the percentage expecting higher sales dropped 4 points to -19-15%.
  • -49% of business owners are expecting better overall business conditions (2 points worse than March) and -19% of small businesses expect higher sales in the next 6-months (4 points worse than March).
  • 56% of small business owners reported capital outlays in the last 6-months (down 1 point from March) and 19% are planning capital purchases in the next 3-months (down 1 point from March).
  • 30% of small business owners reported all their credits needs are met (up 1 point from March).  59% said they were not interested in a loan and 2% of small business owners reported that their borrowing needs were not satisfied (unchanged from March). 

SBE Council Small Business Checkup Survey for Q1 (May 4, 2023)

Summary: Small businesses believe they will survive, but inflation is erasing profitability.

  • 85% of small business owners are concerned with an economic slowdown or recession.
  • Inflation tops the lists of small business concerns (57%), followed by recession worries (29%), economic uncertainty (29%), gas prices (26%), high taxes (22%), rising interest rates (21%), and supply chain challenges (20%).
  • 55% of small business owners report their revenues are not keeping up with inflation and 57% are cutting back on spending.
  • 55% of small businesses report that worker shortages are hampering their operating capacity.
  • 43% of small businesses report increased revenue in 2023 and 42% report increased profitability.
  • 45% of small business owners plan on keeping their employee count level over the next 6-months.  35% plan on adding employees, and 15% of small businesses plan on decreasing staff.

 WSJ | Vistage Small Business CEO Survey (May 4, 2023)

Summary: Confidence in overall economy hits an all-time low.

  • The WSJ | Vistage small business CEO confidence index dropped 11.6 points over the past year.
  • 47% of small businesses plan to hire in the next 12-months (down 11 points since March).
  • 30% of small businesses plan to invest in their businesses over the next 12-months (up 2 points since March).
  • 49% of small business owners report that rising interest rates are impacting their business.
  • 54% of business owners believe the overall economic conditions have worsened over the past year and 12% believe economic conditions have improved.

MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index for Q1 2023 (March 29, 2023)

Summary: This quarter’s Small Business Index demonstrates the remarkable resiliency of small business in the face of 5 consecutive quarters where inflation ranked as top concern.

  • Index score is 60 (down 2.1 points from Q4 of 2022), with the slight dip explained by growing negative views of the national economy.
  • 54% of small business owners rank inflation costs as top concern (5 consecutive quarters at top and highest percentage in Index’s history).
  • 38% of small businesses plan on increasing investment over the next 12-months (down 9 points from last quarter) and 37% of small businesses plan on adding staff (down 3 points from last quarter and 7 points above pre-pandemic plans).
  • 64% of small businesses plan on increased revenues in the next 12-months (up 1 point from last quarter and 4 points above pre-pandemic expectations).

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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