NFIB Provides Industry-Specific Small Business Economic Trends Report

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Center released the latest industry-specific Small Business Economic Trends report highlighting small businesses in the construction, manufacturing, retail, and services industries. The overall Optimism Index in July was 89.9.

“Small business owners in various industries continue to manage historic economic headwinds that are impacting their day-to-day business,” said Holly Wade, executive director of NFIB’s Research Center. “Each industry is handling a unique set of circumstances resulting in varying degrees of owner optimism.”

Key findings by industry include:


  • The Optimism Index for construction was 91.3 in July, down 1.2 points from April’s quarterly report.
  • Owners in construction had the highest percentage of unfilled job openings among all industries at 62 percent, up four points from April.
  • Sixty percent of the job openings in construction are for skilled workers, up six points from last quarter.
  • Sixty-seven percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants, up three points from April.
  • Seventy-three percent of construction firms reported raising prices in July, down eight points from last quarter but historically very high.
  • Earnings trends in construction fell by two points from the previous quarter to a net negative 22 percent.


  • The manufacturing sector continues to be more optimistic compared to other industries, with the Optimism Index at 93.2 in July, 3.3 points above the overall optimism.
  • Fifty-nine percent of firms reported unfilled job openings, second only to the construction industry and 10 percentage points higher than all firms.
  • A net 28 percent of firms plan to create new jobs in the next three months, unchanged from April and eight percentage points higher than the overall small business economy.
  • Future sales expectations declined 28 points in July from April’s quarterly report, a net negative 29 percent expecting higher real sales, historically a very poor reading.


  • The retail industry exhibited a notably lower level of optimism than the average for all firms in July with an industry Optimism Index of 85.8, down eight points from April.
  • Earnings trends in retail fell 15 points from the previous quarter to a net negative 33 percent.
  • Retail owners’ expectations about economic conditions over the next six months declined seven points to a net negative 53 percent.
  • Zero percent of retailers report current inventory levels “too low,” compared to two percent (net) of all small businesses.
  • Retailers have decreased inventory levels, and a net negative six percent plan to increase inventories over the next three to six months, seven points below all firms.

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