Weak demand spells recession for the nation's independent businesses.
Owners of independent businesses are much less likely than the overall population to believe that the recession is over and list “business revenues” among their top personal concerns, according to a study released this month by Millionaire Corner.
Nearly three-fourths of small business owners disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “Do you agree the recession is over?” Among the general population, 54 percent answered negatively.
“Many small businesses have yet to return to profitability, and these challenges are felt personally by the business owners and their families,” said Catherine McBreen, president of Millionaire Corner, “Independent businesses are becoming increasingly worried about their enterprises in the context of the recovering economy.”
High net worth business owners, those with $1 million to $5 million, list their top personal concerns as maintaining their financial position, the financial position of their children and grand children, and revenues from their businesses. A depressed real estate market may have heightened these concerns as small business owners tend to have a larger-than-average share of their wealth tied up in real estate investments connected with their enterprises.
Health care costs are also weighing more heavily on independent businesses, Millionaire Corner reports. McBreen explained, “Health care costs directly affect the profitability of a small business, and the consequences of rising health care costs negatively impact the owners’ households.”
Confidence among small business owners, as measured by the National Federation of Independent Business, fell in August for the sixth straight month. The group’s chief economist, Bill Dunkelberg blamed business owners’ fading hopes on uncertainty, exacerbated by last month’s tumultuous debt ceiling debate. He explained, “Private sector decision-makers think longer term and they don’t like what they see. There is little clarity or certainty.”
Business owners surveyed by the federation identify poor sales as their top business problem and report declining expectations for future sales. The results hammer home a point Dunkelberg has been making for months –the economic stimulus has failed to help the small business sector. Moves by the Federal Reserve have increased the supply of money available to banks for loans, Dunkelberg said, but businesses are reluctant to apply for credit in the face of continued economic uncertainty and weak demand.
“Probably two-thirds of NFIB members are not interested in a loan because economic activity is so weak they can’t really put the money to work,” Dunkelberg said.