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


February 20, 2024


We track the latest data on the small business outlook so that you don't have to. Every week, Tom Sullivan analyzes new data from NFIB, Intuit, WSJ/Vistage, and more, to give a weekly economic forecast for small businesses.

The Latest Forecast

This week's small business data roundup shows a sharp drop in sales expectations, making this week’s forecast partly cloudy after a few weeks with more sunshine in the forecast. Maybe it’s just an anomaly after strong end-of-year sales and record-breaking Super Bowl spending. Only time will tell, but dig out the umbrella in case the cloud cover of high inflation, worker shortages, and impending regulation becomes more intense for Main Street employers.

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 policy updates, news, and analysis. Watch here.

Coming Soon: The Q1 2024 MetLife & U.S. Chamber Small Business Index will be released on April 2, 2024.

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New Small Business Data

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index (February 17, 2024)

Summary: Small business optimism took an unexpected hit in January. 

  • -11% of small business owners reported higher sales in the past 3-months (no change from December) and the percentage expecting higher sales declined 12 points.
  • 21% of small business owners rank labor quality as their top problem, overtaking inflation (20%) on the list of small business owner headaches.
  • 22% of small businesses raised their prices in January (down 3 points from December) and 33% are planning on raising prices in the next 3-months (1 point higher than December).
  • 59% of small business owners reported capital outlays in the last 6-months (up 1 point from December) and 23% are planning capital purchases in the next 3-months (down 1 point from December).
  • -38% of business owners are expecting better business conditions (2 points worse than December).

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Valentine’s Day Economic Impact Report (February 13, 2024)

Summary: The Chamber partnered with the National Retail Federation, National Confectioners Association, Society of American Florists, and the National Restaurant Association to highlight the economic impact of Valentine’s Day.

  • An estimated 53% of American consumers celebrate Valentine’s Day, spending $25.8 billion, which translates to about $185.81 per household. 
  • Confectionary sales total $4 billion annually because 57% of Valentine’s spending is on candy.  That includes an estimated 58 million pounds of chocolate.
  • 250 million roses are prepared annually for Valentine’s Day and 60 million adults will go to a restaurant for a Valentine’s Day meal.
  • How does your city benefit economically from Valentine’s Day?  Click here to find out.

Intuit QuickBooks Black History Month Survey (February 1, 2024)

Summary: A survey of over 2,000 Black small business owners provides insight on the use of AI, hiring practices, IP protections, and economic value.

  • 84% of Black-owned businesses innovated within their own operations in 2023, with the highest percentage (43%) innovating through new products or services, followed by new management processes (38%).
  • 80% of Black-owned businesses own a trademark, copyright, or patent and 29% of those without IP protections are unfamiliar with the process.
  • 84% of Black-owned businesses are using AI to help manage their businesses.  39% are using AI to help generate ideas or spark inspiration and 36% are using it to help with customer support.
  • 17% of Black small business owners are worried about how AI will impact their privacy.  16% of Black small business owners worry that AI will replace jobs and 14% are worried about how AI impacts authenticity.  
  • 70% of Black small business owners report they are the first in their family to own a business.
  • 71% of Black-owned businesses hired employees last year and, on average, 49% of their employees are Black.
  • 32% of Black small business owners say their most significant contribution is the money they bring into the economy and 16% cite jobs in their communities as most significant.  15% of Black small business owners say that wealth creation for Black individuals tops the significance rankings and  14% say that mentorship of other Black small businesses is the most significant. 

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices Survey (February 1, 2024)

Summary: Survey of 1,459 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business participants reveals a bullish approach to 2024 despite high inflation, tight credit, and worker shortages.

  • 75% of small business owners are optimistic about their business finances in 2024 and 62% expect profitability to increase.
  • 28% of small business owners have a positive view of the national economy and 27% have a negative view, with 44% ranking the economy as “fair.”
  • 71% of small business owners report that inflationary pressure on their business increased in the past 3-months and 33% rank last year as the toughest year to run their business since 2020.
  • 40% of small business owners who applied for a loan or line of credit in the past 12-months received all the funding they requested and 86% of small business owners believe their growth will be stunted if credit tightens.
  • 57% of small business owners expect to add staff this year and 81% are struggling to recruit good employees.

WSJ / Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index (January 29, 2024)

Summary: Index hits highest point in 12-months and is infused with positivity except for the anxiety small employers are feeling over higher labor costs.

  • 23% of small business owners say the economy has improved compared to 12-months ago (up 3 points from December) and 36% say that the economy has gotten worse over the past year (8 points less than December).
  • 48% of small businesses plan on increasing employees in 2024 (down 9 points from December). 
  • Hiring challenges impact the ability of 44% of small businesses to operate at full capacity (unchanged from December).
  • 32% of small businesses expect to increase fixed investments in 2024 (down 1 point from December).
  • 60% of small businesses are bullish about expected revenues in the next 12 months (down 2 points from December).  52% believe profitability will improve (up 3 points from December) and 15% believe that profitability will shrink (3 points lower than December).
  • 59% of small businesses believe that wages will be the greatest source of inflation throughout 2024.

Slack’s 2024 Small Business Outlook Survey (January 25, 2024)

Summary: Slack’s (Salesforce) survey reveals continued “secondhand pessimism” where small business owners are bullish on their own success, but negative about the overall economy.

  • 49% of small business owners reported that 2023 was better than they expected, with 30% reporting a profit.  21% of small business owners believed 2023 was worse than expected.
  • Small businesses’ top technology investments in 2023 were AI (50%), productivity (41%), and communication (34%).  75% of small businesses believe technology investments will pay off this year.
  • 71% of small business owners are optimistic about their own businesses and 32% believe 2024 is a make or break year for them.
  • Top concerns small businesses have entering 2024 are (1) inflation/economic conditions (47%), (2) needing to raise prices (32%), (3) rising competition (24%), and (4) affording needed tech investment (16%).
  • 60% of small businesses expect to increase their budgets and the top 3 areas of investment are (1) marketing for new customers (51%), cash reserves (45%), and new technologies (43%).

MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index for Q4 (December 12, 2023)

Summary: Negativity towards the national economy continues, but confidence in small businesses’ own cash flow remains strong.

  • Index dropped 8 points from Q3 to a level of 61.3, returning to levels of confidence from earlier this year and consistent with Q4 in 2022.
  • A higher percentage of small businesses are negative about the U.S. economy (53%) (10 point increase from last quarter) and 25% are positive about economy’s overall health (8 point decrease).
  • This is the eighth consecutive quarter where inflation ranks as small businesses’ top concern (50%) and the second biggest concern is revenue (22%).
  • 42% of small businesses plan on increasing investment over the next 12-months (unchanged from the last 2 quarters) and 40% of small businesses plan on adding staff (unchanged from last quarter). The percentage of small businesses anticipating increased revenues remains elevated (65%) albeit 6 points lower than the last 2 quarters’ record highs.
  • 64% of small businesses believe the health of their own businesses is good (2 point decrease from last quarter) and 67% are comfortable with their current cash flow (5 point decrease, but consistent with Q4 of 2022).
  • 45% of small employers searched for new talent in 2023 and 60% of those employers said it was hard to keep up with salary 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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