Business Conditions Got Better Last Month

Article excerpt

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

Small businesses in Oregon may have difficulty planning for the coming year because of an increasingly "clouded outlook" for 2008, the recently released Oregon Small Business Index for November says.

Kendall Oliphant, senior vice president for Thredgold Economic Associates in Salt Lake City, which publishes the monthly index, said the atmosphere for small businesses in Oregon "is roughly on par - just slightly below - the United States as a whole."

In the coming year, "our call for the U.S. economy is to slow, but we don't think it will hit recession," Oliphant said.

Some forecasters are loudly predicting a recession, but Thredgold's latest report sees a 30 percent to 40 percent chance of a U.S. recession during the next 12 months.

Despite the uncertainties, the index - Thredgold prepares it for LibertyBank, which has its headquarters in Eugene - shows that business conditions for small business owners and managers in the state actually improved slightly in November, to 89.6 on a scale of 100, up from 88.2 in October. The baseline of 100 was set in 1997; since then, the index has averaged 88.5 annually for the state, compared with 91.8 for the nation as a whole.

In Oregon, the highest "score" since 1997 came in 2005, when it reached 99.2, compared with the low of 74.5 in 2001. Comparable national figures were 104.3 in 2004 and 71.8 in 2002.

The small business index in Oregon declined slowly during the past year until October, when it ticked up to 88.2, followed by its continued rise last month.

The main reason for the recent improvement is an increase in the state's jobless rate, which indicates that small businesses have access to a larger pool of available workers. Last month, Oregon's unemployment rate stood at 5.5 percent, compared with 5.3 percent in October. The small business index evaluates business conditions from the point of view of owners, not employees or customers.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate has remained constant, at 4. …