Economic confidence has fallen to a two and a half year low among small to medium business operators, according to research published today by MYOB.
The MYOB Business Monitor report found less than one-fifth of the 1,043 small to medium business owners and managers surveyed nationally expect the domestic economy to improve within 12 months.
This was the lowest percentage recorded since MYOB's March 2009 report which found 16% expected the economy to be "better than now" over the next 12 months.
While 20% of those surveyed said their revenue rose in the past year, almost twice that number (38%) said revenue fell, a similar proportion as those with steady revenue (39%).
"These results paint a stark picture of the financial and emotional challenge facing small to medium business owners, their families and their staff over the next year," MYOB chief executive Tim Reed said in a statement accompanying the survey results.
"They will need significant support from their networks and the Government in order to swim strongly through these challenging times."
"Given the lack of confidence in Australia's short-term economic future uncovered by our latest MYOB Business Monitor, it's unsurprising that we also found the majority of SMEs expected to make no change over the next year to their levels of staffing, salaries, investment in research and development, sales promotions, overseas exports and more."
Reed said when MYOB asked SMEs about the pressures they face over the next year respondents in Queensland and Western Australia were the most likely to believe Australia’s economy would improve in the next 12 months, at 21% and 22% respectively.
Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Australia, told SmartCompany the survey results reflected the feedback he was getting from SMEs.
"When we talk about confidence in small business we talk about people, and most of the people I talk to are a bit concerned about the future," says Strong.
"Having said that, the lack of confidence is in retail and manufacturing, when you talk to people who have really embraced the internet you hear the other side which is one of growth and new opportunities."
"In traditional areas it is not surprising to see confidence down but in growing areas they are still confident."
RELEASE DATE: Tuesday, 17 April 2012