Womply study: Southern states lead the nation in small business optimism

The nation’s 30 million small businesses are critical cogs in America’s economic engine. Accordingly, every year Womply surveys thousands of small business owners in all 50 states to assess their sentiment and predict what their optimism (or lack thereof) might mean for job creation, wage increases, and other economic factors.

This year, our poll of nearly 5,000 small business owners revealed a slight uptick in optimism and hiring intent, with intentions to raise wages, add products or services, and expand inventories on par with the results of our 2017 survey.

This means business is still booming on Main Street, with optimism fueling projected actions that lead to continued economic growth. Read our full report below.

General sentiment

For starters, we asked business owners to rate their companies’ performance for the previous year. In general, there was little change from last year’s survey, with two exceptions: a 5-point increase in respondents who were “very satisfied” with their previous year’s business performance, and a 4-point decrease in those who were “somewhat dissatisfied.”

Small business satisfaction

Next, we asked respondents how optimistic or pessimistic they are about their business prospects in the current year. The most notable shifts are more business owners reporting that they are “very optimistic” and fewer saying they’re “somewhat pessimistic.”

Small business optimism 2018

Finally, we ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to their small business “optimism ratio” or the percentage of respondents who report being optimistic this year. South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Washington, and Ohio lead the nation in small business optimism, with South Dakota, Nebraska, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Minnesota bringing up the rear.

small business optimism by state

Good intentions

Small business optimism isn’t a vanity metric. We’ve consistently found a correlation between business owners’ optimism and key actions that impact economic growth, such as hiring intent and plans for growth.

In general, small business owners’ intentions this year are similar to our 2017 findings in key areas, with the notable exception of double the number planning to open new business locations in 2018.

Small business hiring 2018

Hiring intent, in particular, is an interesting metric to assess the confidence of small business owners. So, we ranked all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. according to how likely their small businesses are to hire in the next 12 months.

Small business hiring outlook

Mood swings

If optimism correlates to positive actions, then it follows that pessimism would correlate to negative actions. Here we see how the psyche of the American business owner can lead to decisions that can swing local economies—and, by extension, the national economy—in very di erent directions.

In 2018, optimistic business owners are:

2018 small business optimism

Whereas pessimistic business owners are:

small business pessimism

Methodology

Womply polled 4,743 small business owners in all 50 states via online survey in April 2018.

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