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NFIB Weekly News

NFIB Weekly News Leading the News

Business Optimism Continues At Record Highs. (03/13/2018)

NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends Survey for February shows that business optimism rose to 107.6, continuing its streak of record highs that include a jump in the number of small business owners increasing compensation and capital outlays. NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan is quoted saying, “When small business owners have confidence and certainty in the economy, they’re able to hire more workers and invest in their businesses. ... The historically high readings indicate that policy changes – lower taxes and fewer regulations – are transformative for small businesses. After years of standing on the sidelines and not benefiting from the so-called recovery, Main Street is on fire again.” Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg is quoted saying, “The fact that several components saw significant increases tells us that small businesses are flourishing in a way we haven’t seen in over a decade.”

Despite Outcry, Administration To Proceed On Tariffs. (03/06/2018)

With trade advisor Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Ross making the rounds on the Sunday shows, most media reports remarked on their forcefulness in defending the President’s decision to levy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Trump also reiterated his position on Twitter on Sunday, writing, “We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the US for many years. Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Media analyses also reflected what the AP (3/4, Freking, Miller) termed the blurred “lines of partisanship” on the trade issue, with “labor unions and liberal the unusual position of applauding Trump...while Republicans and an array of business groups are warning of dire economic and political consequences if he goes ahead with the tariffs.”

Column: Small Businesses “Booming” With Tax Cuts. (02/27/2018)

In a column for USA Today (2/21) Rabine Group CEO and Founder Gary Rabine writes that “big businesses are receiving uncommonly excellent press lately,” in large part because “dozens of major American employers are giving their employees significant pay raises or bonuses because of the new tax law that lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.” Rabine provides several examines of large US businesses awarding bonuses to employees as a result of the tax reform bill. He adds, however, “don’t forget about small businesses, which under the new law receive a 20% tax deduction and the ability to immediately expense their business investments.” Small business investments from tax reform “may not generate headlines, but they are also giving pay increases to their employees and expanding their businesses as a result of the new tax law.” He concludes that “the combination of small business and corporate tax cuts has created small business optimism like we haven’t seen in more than a decade.”

US Consumer Prices Rose “More Than Expected” In January. (02/20/2018)

Reuters (2/14, Mutikani) reported that Labor Department data released Wednesday show that “US consumer prices rose more than expected in January as Americans paid more for gasoline, rental accommodation and healthcare, raising pressure on new Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell to prevent a possible overheating of the economy.” However, the department’s inflation report “likely overstates the inflation picture given that some of the price gains, especially for apparel and motor vehicle insurance, are seen by economists as unsustainable.” The Federal Reserve “has forecast three rate hikes for this year, with the first increase expected at its next policy meeting in March.”

Record Number Of Small Business Owners Consider Now A Good Time To Expand. (02/13/2018)

The NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends Survey (2/12) for January saw a “record” number of small business owners say that now is a good time to expand. Furthermore, reported actual earnings climbed to the highest level reported since 1988. NFIB president and CEO Juanita Duggan is quoted saying, “Main Street is roaring. ... Small business owners are not only reporting better profits, but they’re also ready to grow and expand. The record level of enthusiasm for expansion follows a year of record-breaking optimism among small businesses.” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg is quoted saying, “The historically high index readings over the last year tell us small business owners have never been more positive about the economy. ... This is in large response to the new management in Washington tackling the biggest concerns of small business owners – high taxes and regulations.”

Powell Comes To Fed With Economy Showing “Signs Of Strain.” (02/06/2018)

The New York Times (2/4, Appelbaum, Subscription Publication) wrote that Jerome Powell will become Federal Reserve chairman on Monday “as a half-decade of economic tranquility is beginning to show some signs of strain.” The Times said Powell faces a “high wire” as he strives to keep the economy “in the safe space between overheating and recession. ... He has said that he plans to continue the Fed’s gradual retreat from the economic stimulus campaign it mounted after the 2008 financial crisis, and markets have taken him at his word.” But it is not clear how he would respond to a financial crisis.

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers wriote in the Washington Post (2/4) that “the first challenge facing the estimable” Powell “is working out how to achieve growth that is both adequate and financially sustainable. ... Except in the aftermath of recessions, it has been a long time since the US economy grew well with a stable financial foundation.”

Business Climate

Trump: EU, Japan Must Treat US Better On Trade If They Want Tariff Exemptions. (03/13/2018)

Bloomberg News (3/10, Strauss) reported President Trump on Saturday tweeted, “The European Union, wonderful countries who treat the U.S. very badly on trade, are complaining about the tariffs on Steel & Aluminum. If they drop their horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products going in, we will likewise drop ours. Big Deficit. If not, we Tax Cars etc. FAIR!” According to Bloomberg, Trump’s tweets came after European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom and Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko met with USTR Lighthizer for what Malmstrom later “called ‘frank’ but fruitless talks.”

According to The Hill (3/10, Greenwood), “Trump has fielded calls with a number of foreign leaders in recent days,” including Abe, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as the Administration “seeks to contain potential fallout from Trump’s decision to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.”

Trump To Tout Tax Reform Law At Boeing Plant In St. Louis. (03/13/2018)

Reuters (3/11, Shepardson) reported the President “will visit a Boeing Co plant in St. Louis on Wednesday to tout the impact of the tax overhaul bill signed into law in December, a White House official said on Sunday.” Trump “will also attend a fundraiser in St. Louis for Republican US Senate candidate Josh Hawley.” Reuters added that “Boeing said in January it planned to start hiring more people because of the reduction in the US corporate tax rate resulting from the tax law.”

Labor Department: US Added 313,000 Jobs In February. (03/13/2018)

CNN Money (3/9, Gillespie) reported that the Labor Department announced on Friday that US businesses added 313,000 jobs in February, “much stronger than economists expected and the biggest gain since July 2016.” Unemployment held steady at 4.1%, “the lowest in 17 years,” and “wages grew 2.6% compared with a year earlier.” U.S. News & World Report (3/9, Soergel) reported that “job gains exploded last month,” and “goods producers were a key contributor to February’s gains.”

Reuters (3/9, Mutikani) reported that the February gain represented “the biggest number of jobs in more than 1-1/2 years,” adding that “the payrolls gain was the most since July 2016 and triple the roughly 100,000 jobs the economy needs to create each month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.”

Evidence Grows That US Economic Tailwinds Are “Gathering Strength.” (03/06/2018)

Bloomberg News (3/1, Chandra, Dmitrieva) reports that several economic reports released on Thursday “showed recent tax cuts buoyed Americans’ spending power in January, unemployment claims fell last week to an almost five-decade low and factories expanded in February at the fastest rate since 2004.” The positive economic news follows on the first appearance before Congress by new Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who said in his testimony that “some of the headwinds the US economy faced in previous years have turned into tailwinds.” In addition to positive reports on the manufacturing sector, the Commerce Department reported that “real disposable income, or after-tax earnings adjusted for inflation, grew in January by the most since 2015 amid lower taxes and more bonuses related to the law.” In addition, “Labor Department figures showed filings for unemployment benefits fell to 210,000 last week, the fewest since 1969.”

Small Businesses Stand To Benefit From Tax Reform. (03/06/2018)

An article for PBS NewsHour (2/27, Grabenstein) reported that since the passage of tax reform late last year, “large corporations have made headlines by giving bonuses to employees and raising wages,” however, “much less attention has been paid to small businesses, even though experts believe they stand to benefit significantly from the new tax law.” According to the article, three parts of the tax reform law “will likely help small businesses,” including “lower individual tax rates, an additional 20 percent deduction for companies filing as pass-through entities, and an expansion of Section 179 filing, which allows for expensing of business-related equipment.” The article added that “overall, many small business owners appear poised to benefit from the tax bill, starting with the doubling of the standard deduction.”

Fed Predicts Gradual Rate Hikes, Says US Labor Market Is At Or Near Full Employment. (02/27/2018)

The AP (2/23, Crutsinger) reported the Federal Reserve on Friday sent its semi-annual monetary report to Congress that “says it expects that the ongoing strength of the US economy will warrant gradual increases in interest rates this year, delivering the same steady-as-it-goes message under new leader Jerome Powell as it had provided under Janet Yellen.” The AP said “Powell will testify on the report before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, making his first public appearance since taking over as chairman earlier this month.”

Small Business Marketing

Attorney Discusses Factors That Make Customers “Fall In Love” With Small Businesses. (03/13/2018)

In a special column for USA Today (3/9), Steve Strauss, a lawyer who specializes in working with small business clients and entrepreneurs, discussed the factors that “make someone fall in love with a small business.” Strauss said, “the best small businesses” connect with their customers and are “about more than money. They were about making a difference, and their customers not only got that, they loved them for that and rewarded them for it.”

Snapchat Gives Publishers Ability To Distribute Branded Content. (03/13/2018)

Ad Age (3/9, Sloane) reported Snapchat said publishers on its Discover platform will be able “to distribute branded content within the Snap Ads that run in their Publisher Stories,” a solution to “years” of negotiating between the publishers and Snapchat. The decision will allow the publishers to “craft messages for the sponsors, make the ads look more like the rest of their channels and perhaps drive up value for their services on the platform.”

Google Releases Two Tools For Assessing How Site Speed Affects Business. (03/06/2018)

Campaign (UK) (2/28, Khan Javed) reported Google has released two tools to help advertisers and agencies make business cases for optimizing website speeds. The Speed Scorecard compares mobile pages with as many as 10 competitors among some 1,000 websites to “rank the URLs by speed,” with Google recommendations on optimization. The Impact Calculator “takes in data on monthly visitors, the average order value in US dollars, and the conversion rate” to measure “how much potential revenue can be gained with a faster site.”

Facebook Intends To Remove Two Dozen Metrics In July. (03/06/2018)

In a report about Facebook’s efforts to fight ad fraud, AdWeek (3/4, Swant, Carmody) mentions that the platform will “overhaul its advertising measurement system to wean marketers off vanity metrics in favor of more business objectives.” Facebook said it is “removing nearly two dozen different metrics in July – including action, time spent, button click and more.” AdWeek says GroupM wants the platform to work more “with third-party measurement providers.”

Twitter Feature Will Allow Multiple Direct Messages In 24 Hours For Businesses. (02/27/2018)

AdWeek (2/23, Cohen) reports Twitter announced a new feature for businesses: adaptive rate limits. The limits will allow “accounts to send up to five DMs (direct messages) via the Twitter application-programming interface over a 24-hour period in response to DMs that they have received.” The feature should help businesses “respond to direct messages during periods of high volume,” according to AdWeek, which adds that Twitter said “the new feature is available to all accounts that send DMs via third-party tools using the POST direct_messages/event/new endpoint.”

Analysis: Payments Features Will Help Facebook Messenger “Dominate” In 2018. (02/27/2018)

Dana Gibber, co-founder and chief operating officer at Headliner Labs, posts at AdWeek (2/22) that Facebook Messenger will “dominate” 2018 because “consumers are looking to fast, easy modes of purchasing.” Gibber says “Messenger has a beta Payments feature, a single-click payment option that has been in beta for some time, but new improvements make it seamless, simple and powerful. Integrated with Stripe or PayPal, Payments enables companies to accept payment inside of messages sent between them and customers. This means that a customer can search, discover, and buy products inside of a chat.”

Wages and Benefits

Administration Rolls Out New, Patient-Focused Approach To Healthcare. (03/13/2018)

The AP (3/10, Alonso-Zaldivar) reported “the Trump administration is taking a pragmatic new tack on health care,” focusing on “consumer friendly changes and savings.” Health and Human Services Secretary Azar is rolling out the agenda, which the AP stated is focuses on improving electronic medical records, lowering prescription drug costs, implementing value-focused payment systems in Medicare, and “getting true prices for health care goods and services in front of consumers” to encourage better market competition.

Labor Department Launches Wage Violation Self-Reporting Program. (03/13/2018)

The Nation’s Restaurant News (3/7, Jennings) reported the Department of Labor is launching a pilot program that allows companies to audit their pay practices and self-report any Fair Labor Standards Act violations. The goal of the Payroll Audit Independent Determination program “is for workers to receive back wages they are owed faster and without having to pay costly litigation expenses and attorneys’ fees,” according to the agency. Under the “program, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division would oversee resolution of such violations and ensure that employees are promptly paid what they are owed.”

Group Pushing For $15 Minimum Wage Asks NLRB To Suspend Settlement Negotiations With McDonald’s. (03/06/2018)

Reuters (2/27, Wiessner) reported that an organization that is pushing for a $15 minimum wage has “asked the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel to suspend settlement talks with McDonald’s Corp in a major case claiming the company is liable for labor law violations by franchisees.” Fight for $15 counsel Mary Joyce Carlson said in a letter to the general counsel that “a long-running trial against McDonald’s should resume after the NLRB overturned a December decision that had made it more difficult to prove that companies are “joint employers” of contract or franchise workers.”

Congressional Lawmakers Facing Deadlines To Pass Legislation To Stabilize ACA Marketplaces. (03/06/2018)

Kaiser Health News (3/2, Rovner) reported that congressional lawmakers are “running out of time if members want to come up with legislation to stabilize the individual insurance market.” The article said “a bipartisan group of senators and House members has been working since last summer on measures to keep prices from rising out of control and undermining the individual market,” even as GOP and Democratic lawmakers have been fighting about the future of the ACA. The group hopes “to attach a package of fixes to what should be the year’s final temporary spending bill, due in late March.” The piece added that lawmakers must achieve their goal before summer, when insurers must decide if they want to continue to sell plans through ACA marketplaces.

The Hill Analysis: Democrats Moving Towards Single-Payer. (02/27/2018)

The Hill (2/25, Sullivan) reported the release of a healthcare plan from the Center for American Progress “that comes very close to a single-payer system” is evidence the Democratic Party is moving towards a single-payer plan. Under the proposal, called Medicare Extra, there would be “government-run health insurance for everyone, though people would still have the option of obtaining coverage from an employer.” In addition to the proposal, “many lawmakers seen as top contenders for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020...are backing Sanders’s latest Medicare for All bill.”

Trump Budget Includes Funds To Subsidize ACA Insurers. (02/20/2018)

The Washington Times (2/18, Howell) reported that while President Trump canceled cost-sharing payments to insurance companies, his new budget includes money to fund the “contentious a move that conservatives say will end up sustaining” the ACA. Trump’s request has “anger[ed] conservative groups that see little reason for Mr. Trump and the Republican-led Congress to reverse a hard-won victory over Obamacare.” The Times called the move “surprising not only because of Mr. Trump’s past criticism but also because the administration seems committed to trying to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act piece by piece.”