Dun & Bradstreet U.S. Economic Health Tracker

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A Monthly Report on Business-Related Economic Trends

March 2022 Report

Dun & Bradstreet's U.S. Economic Health Tracker is a monthly, multi-dimensional review of the health of the economy.

U.S. Small Business Health Index

The Small Business Health Index (SBHI) measures business health at the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Industry (SIC) level as it relates to payment patterns, failure rates, and credit use. The SBHI follows a sampling of all active small businesses with fewer than 100 employees and combines pro- and counter-cyclical elements to provide a simple, representative number. Using 2004 as the base year (index value 100), improvement is designated by an index value above 100. The index is a combination of pro-cyclical and counter-cyclical elements - reflected in one number and is calculated quarterly. The SBHI is based on 4 factors:

  • Average credit card utilization
  • Percent of credit cards with outstanding balance cycle 3+ (61+ days past due)
  • Ratio derived from the number of failures in the last 12 months over prior 12 months
  • Percent of delinquent dollars 91+ days past due out of all outstanding balances

The U.S. Small Business Health Index (SBHI) ticked higher in January, rising to a 10-month high. Drastic improvement among the small business failures subcomponent in January, in which the rate of small business failure was the lowest since March of 2021 helped to push the index up 2.5 points on a sequential basis. Improvement was also broad based among industry sectors with all nine major industries now recording values above their pre-pandemic levels.    

U.S. Jobs Health

U.S Jobs Health is comprised of Dun & Bradstreet’s proprietary indicators that forecast that the labor market, based on nonfarm payroll employment figures. It combines Small Business Health Index industry data with U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures to forecast monthly nonfarm payroll employment.

Dun & Bradstreet predicts 381,000 jobs were added to the nonfarm payroll in February, the slowest monthly pace of job gains in nearly a year. Despite some lost momentum in the jobs market, a monthly gain of 381,000 jobs remains a historically robust figure. Positive job gains at the industry sector are forecast across the board. 

U.S. Overall Business Health Index

The U.S. Overall Business Health Index provides a weighted average of the D&B Viability Rating®, the D&B® Delinquency Predictor Score, and the D&B® Total Loss Predictor. The Overall Business Health Index (OBHI) measures the aggregate risk of a confirmed active and open businesses paying in a severely delinquent manner (91+ DPD), recording a first payment default or becoming no longer active. The index tracks conditions at both the geographic (National, census region, state and Metro Statistical Area) and industry level (SIC). The index provides a benchmark for determining business level financial stress. It ranges from zero (with all businesses recording high levels of risk) to 100% (with all businesses recording low levels of risk).

Dun & Bradstreet’s Overall Business Health Index was essentially unchanged in January, remaining at 48.95, a level the index has remained near since last October. The recent lack of improvement in overall risk is being primarily driven by a lack of gain within the Viability and Commercial Credit sub-components.  Additonally, macroeconomic factors are having outsized effects on risk in individual sectors. Rising commodity prices such as oil have kept our natural resources category as a top performer over the past few months while negatively impacting the transportation sector.       

* February 2022 marks the latest comprehensive historical revision to the Overall Business Health Index with subsequent planned revisions occurring during February of each year.

 

Perspectives

An improvement within the Small Business Health Index (SBHI) in January is a positive development and will provide a stronger footing for U.S. small businesses to stand upon while the domestic impact from soon to be tighter monetary policy, ongoing supply chain issues and the effects from geopolitical events in Eastern Europe are likely to shape the US small business environment for months to come. With rising uncertainty it’s important to note that Small Business Health Index remains near a post-pandemic high. Small businesses are recently failing at a lower rate while both credit card and trade dollar severe delinquency rates continue to trend lower.  The current level of 89.1 remains near a traditional level of solid economic output and for the time being should continue to indicate robust GDP growth but many variable factors do exist and that could change growth in the months ahead. The leading principles of our SBHI will continue to provide an outlook for GDP growth over the next several quarters and each month will provide insight into how impactful these ongoing events to that growth rate.

Meanwhile, the Overall Business Health Index (OBHI) continues to stabilize around the 48.9 level, an area where it has remained for the past several months. Despite the continued recovery in economic growth ‘balance sheet risk’ as measured by the OBHI among all active and open businesses in the US remains somewhat heightened compared to various points in 2021.  The lack of earlier improvement in the index in 2021 when macroeconomic effects were deemed less severe or potentially impactful than now could be deemed a risk within itself.  Broader macroeconomic effects resulting from rising inflation and soon to be tightened US monetary policy will surely become a more difficult challenge for US businesses to deal with.  Meanwhile, ongoing geopolitical events will likely have a further destabilizing effect on domestic balance sheet health. While stabilization in D&B’s risk scores is a positive development the establishment of the recent current range in the OBHI, which is still historically weak, should be interpreted with caution. 

Report based on data available as of February 28, 2022.