Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


May 29, 2017


Small businesses are on the front lines of growth, accounting for two-thirds of new jobs and half of our country’s economic output. Their experiences and perspectives tell us a lot about where our economy is headed—and what our leaders in Washington should be doing to help. To dive deeper into the attitudes and concerns of these business leaders, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce teamed up with MetLife to launch a new quarterly Small Business Index. The first edition, released last week, showed that small business owners are feeling bullish about prospects for their own businesses but are skeptical about the health of the American economy.

The Index surveyed 1,000 small business owners around the country and found that roughly 6 in 10 feel positive about market conditions for their companies. The Index revealed that 60% of business owners expect their revenues to increase, and 29% plan to hire more workers over the next year, compared with just 6% who expect to reduce their workforces. In addition, those planning to increase investments in their companies outnumber those planning to pull back. That’s the good news.

However, small business owners were less optimistic about the economy overall. Only one-third believe that the U.S. economy is in good health, with a quarter saying it’s in poor or somewhat poor health. Owners offered a slightly more positive take on their local economies, with 42% grading them favorably. This pessimism reflects the need for stronger economic growth to unlock the full potential of the small business sector.

What’s behind this outlook? According to the Index, one in four small business owners said that government, regulatory, and licensing tasks are taking up more and more of their time. The same number reported difficulty in finding qualified employees for open positions. The evidence continues to stack up—burdensome regulations and the widening skills gap are a drag on small business growth. These are challenges that the Chamber is committed to solving.

Despite these concerns, we’re encouraged that the majority of small businesses are ready to grow. This new quarterly Index will continue to provide deep insights into the constantly evolving challenges facing the small business community, and the Chamber will continue communicating these insights to our government. It’s more important than ever for our leaders to listen up, tune in, and ultimately buckle down to address the issues taking place on the front lines of growth. Job creation and economic prosperity depend on it.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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