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  • Archive for the 'Economy: National and Global' Category

    RESULTS: Is your small business showing economic improvement?

    The Question:

    The NFIB Index of Small Business Optimism shows small businesses see economic improvement and hiring is up. What is your experience?
    Photo courtesy of Wealthyauthority.com21% — Our business is improving and we’ll add employees this year.
    55% — Our business is improving but we’ll handle it with existing people.
    3% — We’re not growing but still plan to staff-up to pre-recession levels.
    21% —  We don’t see improvement and won’t be hiring.

    Jim’s Comments:

    The good news is that three of four of our respondents are seeing economic improvement. The bad news is those who plan to hire number barely one in five.  This means that the growth being seen is merely an upward trend, not economic expansion.

    Furthermore, the business owners I talk to say the current regulatory state, including the spectre of Obamacare, is causing them to make adding new people a last resort.

    Thanks for participating.  Be sure to participate in our new poll below.

    Inconvenient foreign policy hashtags

    @PresidentObama: “Today the world is less violent and more tolerant than it has ever been.”
         #Syria  #IranianGreenMovement  #9IslamicCountriesPersecuteChristians
         #Benghazi  #BokoHaram

    @PresidentObama: “The reset button with Russia has worked.”
         #Crimea  #Ukraine

    @PresidentObama: “The United States is ready to respond to China’s aggression toward its neighbors.”
         #RedlineForAssad  #NuclearIran  #SeeCrimea  #SeeUkraine

    @PresidentObama: “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.”
         #ISISAdvancesOnBaghdad

    @JimBlasingame: What happens when a nation’s foreign policy is always defined by others?
         #NevilleChamberlain

    @JimBlasingame: The wages of the Obama Doctrine are being coined and spent by forces that won’t trade with those who value life and liberty.
         #LeadingFromBehind  #Feckless  #Impotent  #Predictable

    @JimBlasingame: The Obama Doctrine is approaching global critical mass.
         #GodHelpUs

    Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

    The greatest challenges of small business owners today

    Ask any small business owner how business is and even those who honestly report, “It’s great!” will also likely say, “But we can always use more.”

    Knowing this about the heroes of Main Street, to find out what’s really going on you have to ask the way we did recently in our online poll: “What’s the greatest challenge for your business right now?” Below are five options we provided, the responses, and my thoughts.

    It was surprising to learn that less than 10% reported “Finding qualified people” was their big concern, which was down from past surveys. Some sources estimate there may be 4 million positions going wanting for qualified candidates, so my speculation is that this change has more to do with the economy than talent supply.

    And it was interesting that less than 10% of our sample were troubled by Obamacare impacting their HR strategy, also down from past polls. Perhaps the fear factor has diminished since the president delayed the employer mandate to 2015. We’ll see if this response changes next year.

    According to Dr. Bill Dunkleberg, Chief Economist for the NFIB, who’s polled small business owners for 40 years, their single greatest concern over this period has been taxes and regulations. But when we offered this option in our poll, only one-fourth of our folks chose it. Since taxes and regulations have actually increased in the past five years, the next response represents what it took to knock these perennial pains off the top.

    The big number in our poll came in at 58% for, “We need more sales.” This response has to be juxtaposed over another response we’ve received for the past five years, which is that consistently three-quarters of small businesses feel they’re operating in a stagnant economy. At this stage of a recovery, the economy should be growing at 4%. But when you see this response from the sector that creates over half of U.S. GDP, it’s not difficult to understand why the economy has barely averaged 2% growth per year.

    Response to the next option supports the previous one. Only 3% said, “We need a bank loan.” For five years small businesses that survived the Great Recession did so by de-leveraging and learning how to operate more efficiently. Bank loans are the primary source of small business growth capital, but when the economy isn’t growing so goes business loans.

    Wall Street, once the leading indicator of the economy is now merely a leading indicator of itself. The new leading economic indicator is Main Street. If you want the economy to grow, create conditions that foster small business growth

    If the economy is the chicken, small business is the egg.


    SBA Poll Results: How is the economy looking for you?

    The Question:
    With two months of 2014 behind us, how is the economy looking for your business?

    5% - So far, 2014 sales are great and expect this to continue.

    34% - We’re seeing improvement over last year.

    42% - So far, this year is trending no better than last year.

    18% - This year is looking worse than last year.

    My Comments:
    When we asked you about your instincts about the new year in our online poll the first week of January, 60% of you said you were either positive or very positive. Alas, as you can see above, now two months into the new year, less than four in ten small business owners see any signs of economic growth in the early going. With this kind of response from the pathologically optimistic sector that creates over half of the U.S. economy, it looks like anything but a robust recovery continues to be our reality.

    Here’s the understatement of the decade: This is starting to get out of hand. Of course I’m talking about what seems to be entrenched malaise on Main Street. Please remember, I’m just commenting on what you report to me. I would much rather be talking about how excited everyone is about the future. I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming Feature Article. Stay tuned and thanks for participating.

    Connecting small business, the economy and Washington

    The Great Recession ended in July 2009. In our online poll since then we’ve asked small business owners several times about their economy.

    Comparing responses from our poll at the end of 2011 with the one at the end of 2013, the groups experiencing sales growth went from 76% in 2011 to 48% in 2013, while the bottom half went from less than one-fourth having a tough time in 2011, to more than half reporting flat to negative sales in 2013. Small business reality has been steadily going in the wrong direction.

    We’ve also asked about small business projections for the coming year. In 2012, 73% were positive about the New Year, while the rest were uncertain. But one year later, in 2013, the responses essentially inverted: 24% positive, and 76% not so much. Recently we asked, “How are you projecting sales for 2014?” Only 20% are projecting a good year, with the other 80% projecting slight to flat to negative growth.

    As you can see, not only has actual business performance declined for our small business respondents, but optimism about the future is also going in the wrong direction, from 73% positive in 2012, to 24% positive in 2013, to 20% positive in 2014.

    For more than a decade on my radio program, I’ve reported monthly on two scientific small business surveys: Dr. Bill Dunkleberg’s NFIB Small Business Economic Trends Report (the 40-year gold standard), and the Tatum Index of Business Conditions. In terms of context, my “trends and conditions” poll responses have consistently aligned with the results of these two during the same periods.

    Here’s why all of this matters: Almost five years into a recovery, the economy should be growing at 4%, but is barely reaching 2%. And in December, economists expected 200,000 new jobs, but were shocked when only 74,000 were created.

    The small business sector produces over half of the U.S. economy and most of the net new jobs. If you’re wondering what happened to the missing 2% GDP and millions of new jobs, they’re lost in the production small businesses have not created since 2009.

    When we’ve asked about the single greatest thing holding small businesses back since 2009, the answer has been consistently and overwhelmingly “uncertainty” created by anti-business attitudes and policies coming out of Washington, like Obamacare and proposing a minimum wage increase.

    Small business owners are pathological optimists. But Washington has taken a toll on their reality and expectations—and by extension, the economy.

    In the 21st century, as small business goes, so goes America.

    ###

    Be sure to check out my latest segment on The Small Business Advocate Show® where I talk more in-depth about the economy and how small business effects it.

    Connecting the small business, government and the economy

    My latest book The Age of the Customer® is available at the following locations. Be sure to purchase your copy today to help your small business stay relevant.

    Blasingame’s 2014 Crystal Ball Predictions

    Here are my predictions for 2014

    Prediction: Five years after the end of the Great Recession, U.S. economic growth will average no more than 3% in 2014.

    Prediction: Small businesses will benefit from the economic growth, but will continue to report optimism levels below the NFIB Index’s 40-year average of 100 points.

    Prediction: Small businesses will continue reluctance to take growth risks, producing the sixth straight year of low levels of investment and bank loans.

    Prediction: With uncertainty about the impact of Obamacare lasting through Q4, small businesses will continue their reluctance to hire.

    Prediction: More significant than the U3 household unemployment percentage, the employment participation rate, currently 63%, will remain at the lowest levels since the Carter administration.

    Prediction: The Fed will follow through and reduce the unprecedented quantitative easing (QE) that has infused trillions of dollars into the economy (primarily Wall Street) since 2008.

    Prediction: Incoming Fed Chairman, Janet Yellen, will promote policies that will be friendlier to the twin pillars of Main Street: small businesses and community banks.

    Prediction: A combination of Fed QE tapering, a cooling global economy, and continued Obamacare disruptions will produce a challenging year for Wall Street.

    Prediction: Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, Obamacare will produce a kind of national economic double jeopardy of real damage to millions of people, and continued uncertainty for everyone else.

    Prediction: After over a dozen arbitrary and unilateral changes to Obamacare by the Obama administration, with more to come in 2014, Constitutional challenges will manifest as lawsuits.

    Prediction: Democrats running for re-election will run from the president, making 2014 a lonely year for him.

    Prediction: Only one thing will overcome the record low polling numbers of Congressional Republicans enough to propel them to regain control of the Senate while maintaining a majority in the House in the mid-term elections—Obamacare.

    Prediction: President Obama will win the debt ceiling and immigration debates, but will lose on raising minimum wage.

    Prediction: Hillary Clinton will announce her 2016 presidential intentions, but not until after the mid-term elections.

    Prediction: Auburn will defeat Florida State in the BCS Championship Game.

    The die is cast: Obamacare will be the most pervasive financial, economic, and political factor in America in 2014.

    ###

    For a more in-depth guide to my predictions for 2014, listen to my latest segments from The Small Business Advocate Show® linked below.

    Five of Jim’s 2014 Crystal Ball Predictions

    Five more of Jim’s 2014 Crystal Ball Predictions

    The last seven Crystal Ball predictions by Jim Blasingame

    Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

    Take this week’s poll HERE!

    Watch Jim’s videos HERE!