Below, we highlight the NFIB findings compared to the TRENDS Survey regional data set for perspective. The specific questions from the Oakworth TRENDS Survey follow.

NFIB Small Business Job Openings51.0
NFIB Small Business Higher Prices70.0
NFIB Small Business CapEx Plans27.0

Each questions in the TRENDS Survey is “scored” from 1 to 5. Each data point represents the average answer for each question for each survey.

Question 1: How would you rate your current level of business activity?

While still strong, the current level of business activity has been slowing the past few surveys. It is possible that sustained high prices and volatile financial markets are starting to downgrade “great” business activity from our region to just “good” activity.

1. Much weaker than expected 2. Somewhat weaker than expected 3. As expected 4. Somewhat stronger than expected 5. Much stronger than expected

Question 2: How would you rate your ability to attract/find qualified employees?

It is clear that finding qualified employees is just as difficult in our markets as it is nationally. As the additional federal unemployment benefits expired, some thought this difficulty would begin to ease. Both the TRENDS Survey and the national data show that is not the case.

1. Very easy 2. Somewhat easy 3. About normal 4. Somewhat difficult 5. Very difficult

Question 3: Do you plan to expand your operation over the next 6 months?

Plans to expand operations over the next six months remain strong. Similar to the business activity question, however, we have seen a slight trend down over the past few surveys. Difficulty in finding qualified employees, coupled with overall higher costs, may be placing a bit of a damper on growth plans.

1. Strongly disagree 2. Somewhat disagree 3. Too early to tell 4. Somewhat agree 5. Strongly agree

Question 4: How would you rate the growth of your input and expenses?

The responses to the inflation question remain incredibly high. After two slightly lower survey results in April, we are now back at the highest level of the survey, with a score of 4.6 out of 5. This trend may be the most important one to follow over the next year. Persistently high inflation could lead to rising interest rates and a slowing consumer, a bad mix for businesses.

1 Decreasing much more rapidly than expected 2. Decreasing somewhat more rapidly than expected 3. As expected 4. Rising somewhat more rapidly than expected 5. Rising much more rapidly than expected

Question 5: Rate the following statement: “My business has returned to pre-COVID operations.”

The trend of businesses returning to pre-COVID operations remains strong. Almost all respondents to the latest survey say they have returned to normal operations. Some areas of the country seem to be well behind the Southeast in returning to pre-COVID operations.

1. Strongly disagree 2. Somewhat disagree 3. Too early to tell 4. Somewhat agree 5. Strongly agree

About the TRENDS Survey

The one question we get most often from our business owner clients is “what are your other clients seeing right now”. In an effort to give a more formal answer to that question we would like to share with you the results of a survey we have launched called Oakworth TRENDS. This anonymous survey is done twice a month by a select group of business owners throughout the Southeast. After some time, the Oakworth Investment Committee is able to use the survey data to produce reports that add additional insight to the strength of the economy and eventually industry specific reports. Both the survey results and ensuing reports should be useful in helping determine relative strength of your business to other businesses in the same market, as well as how the local economy is performing compared to both regional and national markets.

The Oakworth TRENDS Survey is just another way we are adding value to our clients in a unique way. We believe that the ability to see real time local commercial trends could provide business owners with important information.

Contact the Oakworth TRENDS Survey Contributors

John Norris

Managing Director and Chief Economist

Contact John

David McGrath

Associate Managing Director

Contact David

Sam Harris

Investment Analyst

Contact Sam