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Small business uncertainty reaches pandemic-era levels

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Small businesses are citing the highest levels of uncertainty since the COVID-19 pandemic, a concerning economic indicator.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses released the survey of small businesses, which found that small business uncertainty spiked last month.

NFIB keeps an “Uncertainty Index” which spiked 9 percentage points last month, hitting the highest level since November of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was raging and businesses were shutting down across the country.

“The small business sector is responsible for the production of over 40% of GDP and employment, a crucial portion of the economy,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “But for 29 consecutive months, small business owners have expressed historically low optimism and their views about future business conditions are at the worst levels seen in 50 years. Small business owners need relief as inflation has not eased much on Main Street.”

Meanwhile, 22% of small businesses cited inflation as the biggest concern operating their business. Inflation has remained stubbornly elevated this year, although lower than the record pace earlier in President Joe Biden’s term.

“Price hikes were the most frequent in the retail (55% higher, 6% lower), finance (50% higher, 3% lower), construction (42% higher, 9% lower), manufacturing (42% higher, 12% lower), and services (37% higher, 6% lower) sectors,” NFIB said in its report. “Seasonally adjusted, a net 28% plan price hikes in May.”