NFIB Report: Small Business Optimism Reaches Lowest Level Since 2012

New Jersey also came in 46th in latest ALEC rankings

TRENTON, NJ (April 12, 2024) — Two newly released surveys do not paint a pretty picture nationally or in New Jersey for the small-business economy.

As it does the second week of every month, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its latest Small Business Economic Trends (SBET) report (also known as the Optimism Index) on the state of the small business economy nationwide. Also, as it does around this time, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on Wednesday released its annual Rich States, Poor States report.

NFIB’s Optimism Index showed it below its 50-year average for the 27th consecutive month. The new Rich States, Poor States report showed New Jersey 46th among states for economic outlook.

“New Jersey’s consistently low ranking in the Rich States, Poor States report and the alarmingly pessimistic mood small business owners are in as expressed through NFIB’s Optimism Index surveys are sadly not surprising,” said Eileen Kean, New Jersey state director for NFIB. “From high taxes to burdensome regulations to lawsuit abuse, New Jersey’s small business owners need policymakers in Trenton to show leadership for Main Street shops and jobs. If New Jersey legislators want to improve our state’s small business climate, they must act on these concerns that are pushing small business owners to the brink.”

From NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg on the new SBET Survey: “Small business optimism has reached the lowest level since 2012 as owners continue to manage numerous economic headwinds. Inflation has once again been reported as the top business problem on Main Street and the labor market has only eased slightly.”

Highlights from Today’s Optimism Index Report:
1. The net percent of owners who expect real sales to be higher decreased eight points from February to a net negative 18% (seasonally adjusted).
2. Twenty-five percent of owners reported that inflation was their single most important problem in operating their business (higher input and labor costs), up two points from February.
3. Owners’ plans to fill open positions continue to slow, with a seasonally adjusted net 11% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down one point from February and the lowest level since May 2020.
4. Seasonally adjusted, a net 38% reported raising compensation, up three points from February’s lowest reading since May 2021.


For 80 years, NFIB has been advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals. NFIB is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member-driven. Since our founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses, and remains so today. For more information, please visit

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