Survey Also Shows Economic Optimism Drops for First Time in Over Year
Overall economic optimism among small business owners has declined this month for the first time since October 2016, but hiring rates among the 7,422 small business owners we surveyed have surged to a record-setting peak. March was a high watermark for small business hiring (small employers are those with between two and ten full-time employees, including the owner-operator), and the trend holds both for those that are hiring today and those who expect to increase their headcount within the next three months.
Of small employers hiring today:
- Over 42% recently filled or are attempting to fill job openings
- Hiring rate is highest in the transportation and moving industry, at 54%
- Hiring is strongest in the Rocky Mountain region (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming) and the West Coast, at 48% and 46%, respectively
Of small employers hiring in the next three months:
- Overall near-term hiring rate has grown 8% since the fall for an all-time high of 39% in March
- Near-term hiring rate is biggest in New England at 44%
- Even the lowest near-term rate is comparably high—38% in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast
Overall Economic Sentiment
Following a particularly optimistic February, economic sentiment among the 7,422 small business professionals we heard from in our March survey remains lofty, with positivity slipping by less than a twentieth of a percentage point.
Mike P., a guitar instructor in Salt Lake City, Utah told us that, in general, he has a lot to feel optimistic about during this time of year. Though he admits business in March has been stronger in years passed, recently things have been picking up. “I have a few more students than we normally have right now. I have more studio work and gigs and more lessons,” Mike says.
The Wage Disconnect
Despite this heightened period of job growth—both current and anticipated—gains in employee compensation have been minimal. The number of small employers planning to increase their employees’ compensation (38 percent) is the same as it was five months ago.
So while the hiring rate has climbed by eight percent since the fall, it’s had little to no effect on what employees are taking home.
About the Thumbtack Economic Sentiment Survey
Every month, the Thumbtack Economic Sentiment Survey captures the attitudes and perspectives of thousands of business owners from across the country to gauge how they are feeling about the economy and their businesses. Now in its fifth year, this survey provides a unique vantage point on the economy, as respondents are largely mobile service professionals with five or fewer employees who operate across the United States. Because they are hard to reach, these professionals are frequently overlooked in other surveys of small businesses.