Maryland: Optimism high, but economic concerns loom large

Baltimore harbor. Maryland is #6 nationally with optimistic small business owners outnumbering pessimistic ones 9 to 1.

Baltimore harbor. Maryland is #6 nationally with optimistic small business owners outnumbering pessimistic ones 9 to 1.

Highlights:

  • Maryland ranks #6 nationally in optimist-to-pessimist ratio
  • Still, the state lags the national average in percentage of optimistic SMB owners
  • A possible reason: concerns about the national economy

The data never lie, but sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story because there are more chapter to be written. Such is the case in Maryland, where on the surface, small business optimism appears to be high. Upon closer inspection, however, local merchants in the Old Line State probably don’t know quite what to make of 2017 just yet.

By one measure, Maryland ranks #6 nationally for small business optimism, with optimistic owners outnumbering pessimistic ones 9 to 1, according to a national study by Womply. By another measure — overall optimism — Maryland lags the national baseline, with 66% optimism compared to 70% nationally. The disconnect is because 26% of Maryland merchants expect their business to do about the same as last year, which is significantly higher than the 17% national average.

This cognitive dissonance may be due to uncertainties at the national level. Maryland small businesses have a front row seat to the ongoing tumult in Washington, D.C., and they appear to be getting conflicting signals about what to expect from the economy. According to our study, the health of the national economy is both a top reason for confidence among optimists and a top reason for anxiety among pessimists. The possibility of a national recession is the #6 reason for worry among all merchants, so there’s some general concern about where the economy may be heading.

Those concerns may also be depressing hiring intent for Maryland’s 550,000 small businesses, which employ 1.1 million people. Nationally, our study found a strong correlation between small business optimism and hiring intent, with confident owners 3.5x more likely than pessimists to hire and increase wages this year. Not so in Maryland, where only 17% of owners plan to add staff this year, ranking the state #41 nationally.

Read our full report below.

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