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posted on 19 April 2016

March 2016 Thumbtack Small Business Sentiment Improved Again, Favors Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for President

from Thumbtack

-- this post authored by Lucas Puente

America's skilled professionals are heading into April in a very positive mood. Based on a national survey of nearly 15,000 respondents, from plumbers to photographers, this group of American small business owner-operators is in better spirits than any point since April of 2015.

In fact, this month's Small Business Economic Sentiment Index score of 66.42 is the third highest score since we started collecting data in the fourth quarter of 2012.

When asked "Which presidential candidate do you support?" results were as follows:


Among the voters we heard from, 20 percent support Bernie Sanders, 15 percent support Donald Trump, 13 percent support Hillary Clinton, 6 percent support Ted Cruz and 3 percent support John Kasich.

In New York state, skilled professionals were even more supportive of Senator Sanders:


Among the decided voters in this community, Bernie Sanders was the favorite by 44 percent, followed by 25 percent for Hillary Clinton and 24 percent for Donald Trump.

Although the two remaining Democratic candidates had far more support from the skilled professionals we heard from, this is not because this group is overwhelmingly left-leaning. In fact, the share of our respondents that identified as being in one of the three conservative typologies (27.9 percent) is almost identical to the share of those identifying in one of the liberal groups (28.3 percent).


A more salient explanation for the different levels of current support for the two parties' candidates is that more than a third of self-identified conservatives remain undecided. This is particularly true among skilled professionals identifying as leaning "slightly conservative," with 46 percent of this group not yet attached to a candidate.

Far fewer liberals are undecided as to their choice, with only 24 percent not yet stating a preference for one of the remaining candidates. Still, these differences in decided voters don't entirely explain Senator Sander's first place position among skilled professionals. Illustrating this, among the election's most pivotal group — moderates — Bernie Sanders again finishes in first, taking 17.7 percent to Hillary Clinton's 13.1 percent and Donald Trump's 12.5 percent.

Like more and more Americans, this ideologically-balanced set of skilled professionals is also supportive of an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour.


Our results show that this support is partly out of self-interest. That is, the share of skilled professionals reporting that they would directly benefit from this change is greater than the share that say that they would be directly harmed. More than a third of skilled professionals think a $15 per hour minimum wage would increase demand for the services they offer, thereby directly boosting their bottom line.


Similarly, the small businesses we surveyed that currently have employees mostly do not anticipate that a higher minimum wage would affect their labor costs since they already pay their employees more than $15 / hour.


Of the 43 percent of small business employers that do anticipate an increase in their cost of doing business (only 19 percent of the entire group), more than half reported that they would offset this by raising prices for their consumers. Only 29 percent indicated that they would reduce their employees' hours or the size of their workforce and 20 percent said they would not change their business practices at all.


Last month, small businesses reported a slight dip in economic optimism following a severe downturn in financial markets, though remained cautiously optimistic that we weren't heading into a recession. This faith has been rewarded over the last month with recent economic indicators offering encouraging news of what's happening in the economy.

Publicly traded equities have rebounded substantially, with the S&P 500 up 4.57% in the last month and more than 11% since its year-to-date low on February 11. Economic fundamentals also continue to show signs of strength. 242,000 workers were hired in the private sectors in February, continuing a 72-month streak of uninterrupted job gains, the longest on record. Similarly, the Bureau of Economic Analysis continues to increase its estimate of GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2015, revising it from an original of 0.7% and a second of 1.0% to a final one of 1.4%.

This bump in economic optimistic is apparent throughout the country, with fourteen of the fifteen biggest markets in America having sentiment scores this month that are higher than both last month and six months ago. Five of the fifteen also recorded a higher sentiment score this month than in any of the past six months. San Francisco is the one city that bucks this trend - it's March sentiment score is lower than each of the prior two months and four of the past six.

It's not just major metropolitan areas that are sharing in this renewed sense of economic optimism, though. In almost every state in the country, from Alabama to Oregon, the skilled professionals we heard from are more optimistic this month than last. This month-over-month growth in economic sentiment continues a nationwide trend since last fall of expanding optimism.

This pattern also holds across every industry represented in our survey. In all eleven industries — from wellness to landscaping — service professionals are feeling more optimistic in March than they were in February and in most of the last six months.

Put together, this month's survey results suggest that skilled professionals will do well this spring. Given their critical role in our economy, let's hope this is indeed what happens.

About the Author

Lucas Puente is Thumbtack's Economic Analyst. He joined Thumbtack after finishing his PhD at Stanford. A native North Carolinian, Lucas loves hiring Thumbtack Pros that make his life easier so he can spend more time doing the things he loves, like playing with data and riding his bike.

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