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 Openings49.0
NFIB Small Business Higher Prices56.0
NFIB Small Business CapEx Plans22.0

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?

Business activity has remained consistently strong through mid-summer, but a bit lower than the peak we saw in late March. Consumer spending nationally remains strong, as it appears to be holding up in our markets as well.

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?

While still positive, business owners in our markets are a bit less willing to expand their operations than they were in the spring. Most likely a combination of 1) concern over the cloudy national economic outlook and 2) the just mentioned continued difficulty in finding qualified employees.

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?

This response remains stubbornly high, and in line with the national inflation numbers we are seeing. Just about everything is significantly more expensive than last year. On an optimistic note, we have started to see commodity prices fall over the past few months.

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.”

For the most part, business owners in our markets have seen a recovery to their pre-COVID operations. That being said, the latest reading for the question is the lowest number we have seen since early spring of this year. Hopefully this will not be a new trend…

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