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NFIB Reports on Construction, Manufacturing, Retail and Services Industries

December 13, 2021, 07:10 AM
Filed Under: Industry News

The NFIB Research Center released the quarterly Small Business Economic Trends industry report, highlighting the construction, manufacturing, retail and services industries.

“Small businesses in every industry are facing challenges like the staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions, which is impacting owners’ optimism,” said Holly Wade, Executive Director of NFIB’s Research Center. “Owners are working hard to attract the right workers to their open positions and meet the demands of their customers.”

Key findings include:


  • The Optimism Index in October was 99.8 in the construction industry, up 0.9 points from July’s quarterly report and higher than the overall Optimism Index by 1.6 points.
  • Small business owners in construction had the highest percentage of unfilled job openings among all industries at 62 percent, up one point from July.
  • Fifty-nine percent of the job openings in the construction industry are for skilled workers, unchanged from last quarter.
  • Sixty-five percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants.
  • Sixty-six percent of construction firms reported raising prices in October.
  • Despite the rise in prices to cover the increased cost of materials, earnings trends in construction rose three points from the previous quarter to a net negative 19 percent.


  • The Optimism Index in October was 101.8 in the manufacturing industry, down from 105.2 in July and 3.6 points above the overall Optimism Index.
  • Fifty-seven percent of firms reported unfilled job openings, second only to the construction industry and eight percentage points higher than the overall.
  • A net 41 percent of firms plan to create new jobs in the next three months, unchanged from July and 15 percentage points higher than the overall small business economy.
  • Future sales expectations declined 16 points in October from July’s quarterly report.
  • A net negative 7 percent of manufacturing owners expect higher sales in the next three months, compared to 0 percent overall.


  • The Optimism Index in October was 98.2 in the retail industry, down 2.3 points from July and the same level as the overall reading.
  • Earnings trends in retail fell five points from the previous quarter to a net negative 14 percent.
  • Retail owners’ expectations about economic conditions over the next six months declined 22 points to a net negative 43 percent.
  • A net 17 percent of retailers report current inventory levels “too low” compared to nine percentage (net) of all small businesses.
  • Retailers continue to increase inventory levels as a net 15 percent plan to increase inventories over the next three to six months, seven points above all firms.


  • The Optimism Index in October was 94.7 for the services industries, decreased by 5.5. points and is 3.5 points below the overall Index.
  • Service businesses concerned about future sales over the next three months fell nine points from July to a net negative 10 percent of owners.

The full survey is available here.

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