America’s skilled professionals are heading into April in a very positive mood. Based on a national survey of nearly 15,000 respondents, from plumbers to photographers, this group of American small business owner-operators is in better spirits than any point since April of 2015. In fact, this month’s Small Business Economic Sentiment Index score of 66.42 is the third highest score since we started collecting data in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Last month, small businesses reported a slight dip in economic optimism following a severe downturn in financial markets, though remained cautiously optimistic that we weren’t heading into a recession. This faith has been rewarded over the last month with recent economic indicators offering encouraging news of what’s happening in the economy.
Publicly traded equities have rebounded substantially, with the S&P 500 up 4.57% in the last month and more than 11% since its year-to-date low on February 11. Economic fundamentals also continue to show signs of strength. 242,000 workers were hired in the private sectors in February, continuing a 72-month streak of uninterrupted job gains, the longest on record. Similarly, the Bureau of Economic Analysis continues to increase its estimate of GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2015, revising it from an original of 0.7% and a second of 1.0% to a final one of 1.4%.
This bump in economic optimistic is apparent throughout the country, with fourteen of the fifteen biggest markets in America having sentiment scores this month that are higher than both last month and six months ago. Five of the fifteen also recorded a higher sentiment score this month than in any of the past six months. San Francisco is the one city that bucks this trend – it’s March sentiment score is lower than each of the prior two months and four of the past six.
It’s not just major metropolitan areas that are sharing in this renewed sense of economic optimism, though. In almost every state in the country, from Alabama to Oregon, the skilled professionals we heard from are more optimistic this month than last. This month-over-month growth in economic sentiment continues a nationwide trend since last fall of expanding optimism, as the interactive visualization below shows.
This pattern also holds across every industry represented in our survey. In all eleven industries — from wellness to landscaping — service professionals are feeling more optimistic in March than they were in February and in most of the last six months.
Put together, this month’s survey results suggest that skilled professionals will do well this spring. Given their critical role in our economy, let’s hope this is indeed what happens.