BRITISH Columbia small business owners posted a small gain in optimism in December, cementing an upward trend we have been seeing for more than a year. At 72.6, BC’s Business Barometer index is the highest in the country. We are also finding pretty positive hiring plans for this time of year, with 21 per cent of owners planning to add staff, while only 6 per cent are expecting to shed staff in the next few months.

“BC began the year at the back of the pack, in sixth place overall,” says CFIB BC Director of Provincial Affairs Mike Klassen. “After steadily climbing back all year, BC has the highest small business confidence in the country. This bodes well for the province’s economic recovery in 2014.”

After a period of relative smoothness through the summer and fall, small business optimism dropped off substantially in December for many parts of the country outside BC. CFIB’s Business Barometer Index fell more than three and half points to land at 62.3, its lowest level since June.

To see the national, provincial and industry sector reports visit:

“This month, seven out of 10 provinces saw a drop in optimism,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s Vice President and Chief Economist. “We’ve had some pretty smooth sailing over the past couple of quarters, but as we end 2013, we’re looking at a slightly different story.”

Optimism fell in seven of 10 provinces. The exceptions are BC, as well as less-upbeat Prince Edward Island (58.3) and New Brunswick (56.7). The biggest declines were seen in Quebec, which is now least optimistic among the provinces at 53.8, Nova Scotia dropping to 58.3, Ontario (62.9) and Manitoba (63.4). Newfoundland and Labrador (68.1) also saw a downward correction, but back to blevels typical of the first half of the year. Not much change in business sentiment was noted in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where index levels still hover near the 70 mark.

Measured on a scale between 0 and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. An index level of between 65 and 70 means the economy is growing at its potential.