National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Economy Update

Posted on 10/30/2020

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Center released a Small Business Economic Trends industry-specific survey highlighting the construction, manufacturing, retail, and services industries. NFIB released a previous quarterly report in May 2020.

“Small businesses are working hard to stay open while they continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic,” says Holly Wade, NFIB Director of Research & Policy Analysis. “This report shows that some industries are recovering faster than others, but there is still much work to be done.” 

Key findings are outlined below.


  • The July Optimism Index for construction was 100.6, up 9.1 points from April’s quarterly report and 1.8 points higher than the overall Index of all firms.
  • Demand for new construction has remained high, and the industry has a better-than average outlook than the rest of the economy.
  • The demand for new workers in construction remains high as the industry had higher than average job openings and plans to increase employment.
  • A net 24% plan to increase their workforce in the next three months.


  • The July Optimism Index for manufacturing was 100.5, a 13.1 point increase from April.
  • Earnings trends over the last quarter were weaker in manufacturing than other industries, a net negative 46% of firms experienced lower earnings over the last quarter.
  • Future sales expectations rebounded, a 64 -point increase since April to a net 17%.
  • Sales growth will be the key driver of earnings changes, and manufacturing firm owners are expecting a strong recovery from record low levels experienced earlier this year.


  • The July Optimism Index for services remains below the overall at 97.1; services have not recovered as much as other industries after a smaller decline in April than the rest of the economy.
  • Owners became more optimistic about economic trends and decided they needed to “staff up,” increasing the percent of service firms with hiring plans.
  • The service sector reported a 46-point increase in the net percent expecting higher real sales.

NFIB’s latest survey on the impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses shows about one in five small business owners will have to shut their doors if current economic conditions do not improve over the next six months. In addition, 44% of small business owners surveyed said they would apply or reapply for a second Paycheck Protection Program loan if eligible.

Learn more about all the surveys from NFIB's Research Center here: