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Mom-and-Pop's 2-Year Depression

Posted January 17, 2024

Matt Insley

By Matt Insley

Mom-and-Pop's 2-Year Depression

For 24 straight months, American small-business owners have been feeling pessimistic. 

Last week, the National Federation of Independent Business came out with its monthly Small Business Optimism Index. The headline number for December, 91.9, is below the survey’s 50-year average reading of 98 — which has been the case for two years now. 


“Small-business owners remain very pessimistic about economic prospects this year,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Inflation and labor quality have consistently been a tough complication for small-business owners, and they are not convinced that it will get better in 2024.”

And it’s not lost on me that the NFIB’s latest survey is from December when holiday shopping, etc. might be expected to buoy small-business owners’ optimism. 

On a related note… 

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Your Rundown for Wednesday, January 17, 2024...

Location, Location, Location 

Starting a new business is a daunting enterprise. 

Statistics show about 20% of startups close within their first year. By the five-year mark? Almost half of new businesses have called it a day. 

Even under “normal” economic conditions, turning a profit is a big ask for small businesses, but adding inflation and tight labor to the mix can be a recipe for disaster. 

The difficult U.S. economy is not the only reason startups fail: One major variable is choosing the wrong location. For instance, selecting the optimal state for a business is critical to its success. 

An environment that fosters business creation — via access to funding, skilled labor, affordable real estate, etc. — helps entrepreneurs launch and sustain momentum. 

A study by WalletHub analyzed the 50 states across 25 vital measures, identifying the most small business-friendly states to start and grow a new business in 2024. 

Among the top-five overall most business-friendly states: 

  1. Utah
  2. Georgia
  3. Florida
  4. Idaho
  5. Nevada

Conversely, ranked in the bottom five positions: 

  1. West Virginia
  2. Maryland
  3. Alaska
  4. Connecticut
  5. Rhode Island

This ranking reveals the landscapes offering new U.S. small businesses the highest — and lowest (side-eyeing my home state, Maryland) — probability of thriving. 

Here’s a question for you, reader: What policies could state governments implement to support small-business owners within their state? (Bonus points if you’ve had experience owning a small business!) Do you see a common thread between the most and least business-friendly states? 

Market Rundown for Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024

The S&P 500 is down 0.70% to 4,730. 

Oil is down 2%, just under $71 for a barrel of WTI. 

Gold is down 0.35%, according to Kitco, to $2,020.40 per ounce. 

And Bitcoin is down 1.80% to $42,400. 

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