The Election's Impact on Small Business Owners

During a presidential election year, there’s always debate surrounding the question of whether or not the uncertainty of the election has an impact on job and wage growth. It’s also always interesting and informative to learn which issues are most on the minds of business owners during the critical months leading up to the election of a new president. To answer these and other questions relative to the upcoming election, Paychex recently surveyed over 300 small business owners nationwide.

When it comes to plans to hire and/or raise wages, the size of the business emerged as the key determining factor in that decision-making process. Of companies with 20-99 employees, less than half said it’s affecting decisions to add staff (42%) and increase wages (48%). The numbers decline further for companies with fewer than 19 employees, with only 14% claiming the election is impacting their hiring decisions and just 9% reporting it’s affecting their decision to increase wages. While these numbers are telling of the overall environment, it’s also important to consider the fact that the smallest of companies may not have the resources to hire or increase wages regardless of the election outcome.

The narrative is a bit different for larger businesses (100-500 employees), however, as nearly three-quarters of those employers said the election is impacting their decision to add staff (74%) and increase wages (71%).

Providing additional perspective, the July Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index showed at 100.68, the growth rate of the national index is consistent with the 2016 average and 0.04 percent higher than it was in July 2015, therefore further proving the election has had little impact on job growth for small businesses thus far.

The issue that is overwhelmingly top of mind for small business owners is the economy. More than half of those surveyed (52%) reported that it’s their top election-year concern. What’s interesting, though, is that no other issue comes close to the economy as important to small business owners this presidential election season: healthcare reform (10%), tax reform (9%), jobs and employment (6%), and immigration (6%).

While it’s understandable that business owners might be thinking in broader economic terms this election season, it’s also very important for them not to lose sight of more specific issues – such as regulation and compliance – that are likely to impact their day-to-day business operations.

Rounding out the responses, minimum wage was listed as the most important issue by just 5% of small business owners, trade by 2% and the new overtime rule by 1%. While these are issues that may have a real impact on small businesses in the coming months, it’s definitely possible that respondents are not completely aware of the changes or their impact on their business and employees at this time.

The bottom line is that while the broader economy is regarded by the majority of respondents as much more important than any specific factors that contribute to it, business owners and their trusted advisors should educate themselves in the months leading up to November. No matter what side of the aisle you may be, both candidates stand firmly in their beliefs one way or another on many specific issues that will greatly impact Main Street over the next four years.

Martin Mucci is president and CEO of Paychex, Inc. Paychex is a leading provider of integrated solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services. This contribution originally appeared on

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