Economic confidence among small companies hits lowest level in two years

An Alabama welding supply company is delaying purchases of new gas cylinders. A men’s clothing store in Louisiana has trimmed fall orders for suits and high-end sportswear. An information technology consulting firm in California is holding back on planned hiring.

After a banner year, many small businesses are becoming more cautious about their investment and hiring plans, The Wall Street Journal reports. Some are responding to early signs of slowing sales, while others fear that tariffs, unstable financial markets, the aftereffects of the government shutdown and other headwinds could dampen economic growth in 2019.

Economic confidence among small firms, which edged downward for much of 2018, in January reached its lowest level since President Trump’s election, according to a monthly survey of 765 small firms for The Wall Street Journal by Vistage Worldwide Inc. (Vistage polls firms with between $1 million and $20 million of revenue.) Just 14% of firms expect the economy to improve this year, while 36% expect it to get worse.

For the first time since the 2016 election, small firms were more pessimistic about their own financial prospects than they were a year earlier, including plans for hiring and investment, according to the survey, which was completed shortly before the 35-day federal shutdown ended. Read the full story.  

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