Optimism among Canada's small- and medium-size businesses held steady in December, says the CFIB.
Its latest monthly business barometer index came in at 62.6, similar to November's level.
"After a few months of swings, small business confidence ends the year very close to what it was in November," says Ted Mallett, CFIB's chief economist and vice-president. "While optimism is better than it was during the summer, the December reading is lower than index levels that were registered in the preceding winter, spring and fall months."
Small business owners in Newfoundland and Labrador (69.1) remain the most optimistic in the country, with entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan (66.5), Alberta (65.7) and British Columbia (65.0) above the national average.
Ontario (62.9) and Manitoba (62.3) is roughly equivalent. But Nova Scotia (61.8), Quebec (59.8), New Brunswick (59.1) and Prince Edward Island (54.3) are all below the national average.
"The economy continues to grow, albeit modestly," adds Mallett. "Entrepreneurs are reporting generally positive news about employment and capital investment plans, which suggests growth could improve once we see more economic optimism in the U.S. and Europe."
Full-time hiring plans continue to be strong for this time of the year. The percentage of businesses expecting to hire full-time staff in the next three or four months remains above 20%, compared to 10% who say they'll cut back.
Measured on a scale of 0 and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their businesses' performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance.