A National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey finds that economic uncertainty dominates the list of small-business owner concerns. The survey lists the five top problems facing small-business owners as:

Cost of Health Insurance

Ranked as a “critical” concern for 52% of respondents, the cost of health insurance remains the most severe problem facing small-business owners. In 2008, the year of the last survey, it also ranked #1, a position it has held this for 25 years. In the last decade, health care costs for small businesses have risen 103%, outpacing the rate of inflation and wages.

Uncertainty over Economic Conditions

This category was new to the top-five list as compared to the 2008 survey and was a critical issue for 40% of respondents. The survey results in this area reflect the severity of the recession and the fragility of the economy, as well as sluggish consumer confidence.

Cost of Natural Gas, Propane, Gasoline, Diesel, Fuel Oil

Ranked #2 in the 2008 survey, 35% of this year’s respondents listed “Energy Costs, Except Electricity” as a critical problem. According to the NFIB, “Historically, the ranking of this problem reflects the average price of gasoline, not surprising considering the primary energy costs for 38 percent of small employers is in operating vehicles.”

Uncertainty over Government Actions

Tied with the previous category for third place, 35% of respondents listed legislation-related concerns as critical. Recent federal legislation to overhaul the financial and healthcare industries was presumably behind this category, new to the 2012 survey.

Unreasonable Government Regulations

This category was raised from #6 in the 2008 survey to its current position, with 34.1% of respondents listing it as critical. All the policy changes of recent years, “create a huge ‘question mark’ for small-business owners, impeding their ability to make short and long-term business decisions,” said NFIB Senior Policy Analyst Holly Wade.

At the bottom of the list — #75 — was the item of least concern to small-business owners: “Exporting My Products/Services.” It has held this position for six of the survey’s seven editions.

The survey, taken every four years, was conducted mid-January through April 2012. Responses were provided by 3,856 NFIB small business owners/members.


NFIB. “Small Business Problems & Priorities.” 2012 Edition. http://www.nfib.com/research-foundation/priorities?utm_campaign=Research&utm_source=Releases&utm_medium=Releases&utm_content=priorities

McKinnon, John D. “Survey: Economy, Fiscal Policy Trouble Small Businesses.” August 22, 2012. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/08/22/survey-economy-fiscal-policy-trouble-small-businesses/

Rogers, Kate. “Small Businesses, Big Concerns About Health-Care Costs.” FOXBusiness.com. August 22, 2012. http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/entrepreneurs/2012/08/22/small-businesses-big-concerns/

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