Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index October 2023

Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index, October 2023

-22,200 jobs | -0.43%

In Canada in September, small businesses with 1 to 19 employees employed 22,200 fewer people nationally than in August. That’s a monthly decrease of 0.43% to 5,168,800 jobs — compared to the previous official benchmark of 5,191,000 in August’s Labour Force Survey, published by Statistics Canada.*

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Canadians are grappling with reduced disposable income dampening consumer demand…and escalating borrowing costs are disproportionately impacting small businesses.
Professor Ufuk Akcigit

Education was the only sector with small business employment growth

In September, small business employment decreased in 12 of the 13 sectors covered by the Index. The education sector (NAICS 61) was the only one to grow, adding 300 jobs, with a monthly growth rate of 0.15%. This sector now employs 167,800 people in small businesses. 

The following three sectors had the largest monthly decreases in small business employment:

  • Wholesale and retail (NAICS 41-42, 44-45): down by 4,800 jobs, a monthly decrease of 0.49%. This sector includes small businesses which sell products to other businesses or directly to consumers.

  • Construction (NAICS 23): down by 3,100 jobs, a monthly decrease of 0.57%. This sector includes small businesses which specialize in residential or commercial construction projects.

  • Accommodation and food services (NAICS 72): down by 2,500 jobs, a monthly decrease of 0.49%. This sector includes hotels, motels, bars, coffee shops, and restaurants.

Ontario had the largest decrease in small business employment

In September, small business employment was down in all five regions covered by the Index. Ontario had the largest decrease, down by 9,500 jobs; a monthly decline of 0.5%. The smallest decrease was in the Atlantic region (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick), down by 1,200 jobs; a monthly decline of 0.31%. 

Ufuk Akcigit, the Arnold C. Harberger Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, said: “In September, Statistics Canada announced a notable inflation rate of 4% for August, marking an increase from the previous month's 3.3%. This surge was primarily attributed to soaring gasoline prices. Meanwhile, core inflation held steady at 4.1% year over year in August, mirroring the previous month's increase in July. In response to this persistent inflation, the Bank of Canada took proactive measures by raising the policy rate to 5%, the highest level seen since 2001. Canadians are grappling with reduced disposable income consequently dampening consumer demand. Additionally, the escalating borrowing costs are disproportionately impacting small businesses, many of whom are nearing the deadline for refinancing their Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans at higher rates, even with the latest extension in place. These unfavorable conditions for small enterprises were reflected in the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index for September, as employment within firms employing fewer than 20 people continued its negative trajectory, contracting by 0.43%.

“As discussed in the September inflation report from Statistics Canada, the ‘recreation, education, and reading’ category exhibited the most significant price decline registering a 0.9% month-over-month decrease. The back-to-school season and a comparably weak, seasonally-adjusted summer period may have contributed to this price easing. Remarkably, there are signs of this reflected in the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index which highlighted a positive trend emerging in the education services sector. It stood out as the sole sector to record positive growth in employment this month. 

“Notably, the agriculture, natural resources and mining sector experienced the most significant decline in September, with employment contracting by 1.16%. This downturn is in line with the ongoing destructive impacts of wildfires and the added strain of rising energy prices on this energy-intensive industry. 

“Furthermore, with the unemployment rate reaching 5.5% and disposable income gradually diminishing, there are signs of weakening consumer demand, particularly in the wholesale and retail sector. The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index reports that the wholesale and retail trade sector had the most significant net employment decline in September, with 4,800 fewer small business jobs.”

More information

Get all the details by region and sector from the interactive Small Business Index dashboard.

Media inquiries

Media contact details for QuickBooks in Canada can be found here on the Intuit website.

USA Index

The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index is also published monthly in the US. Get the latest small business employment insights for the US here.

UK Index

The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index is also published monthly in the UK, a few days after the US and Canada. Get the latest small business hiring insights for the UK on October 9.

About the Index

The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index is a timely new measure of small business employment and hiring in the US, Canada, and the UK. The Index launched in March 2023 and is updated monthly. The Index uses purpose-built economic models to normalize anonymized QuickBooks data to reflect the general population of small businesses in each country; it is not a reflection of Intuit’s business. The Index was developed in collaboration with leading economist Professor Ufuk Akcigit and an international team of researchers and academics.


The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index creates aggregated data outputs from a sample of anonymized QuickBooks Online Payroll customer records which are calibrated using statistical methods to create modeled results which better reflect the general population of small businesses in each country, as represented by published official statistics. Statistical adjustment ensures the Index truly reflects employment and job vacancy changes rather than trends in the QuickBooks customer base. 

Read more or download the full methodology here

Rounded values

Total and monthly changes in employment and job vacancies have been rounded to the nearest hundred. Monthly changes and growth rates are calculated before total employment or job vacancy values are rounded. Rates have been rounded to the nearest hundredth.

Seasonal adjustments

The Index’s data insights are seasonally adjusted to limit the effect of seasonal patterns in employment and hiring throughout the year, which lead to regular fluctuations in workforce growth and contraction.

Employment growth formula

Employment growth(t) = [Employment(t)-Employment(t-1)]/[0.5*Employment(t)+0.5*Employment(t-1)]

*Employment levels

The Index produces a monthly prediction of employment growth rates by country, region, and sector. In order to translate these growth rates into the number of jobs/vacancies gained or lost, the growth rates are multiplied by the prior month’s predicted employment levels, except during the months when official statistics are published. During those months, the latest official employment levels that have been reported are used in the calculation instead of the Index’s prior month’s predicted employment levels. As a result, the Index’s predicted total employment levels may at times differ from the predicted growth rates. Official statistics are published at different frequencies depending on the country ranging from monthly to quarterly.

Time series

The Index uses data going back to January 2015 in Canada and the US and to January 2018 in the UK. Published at the earliest opportunity every month, the Index shows the number of people employed by small businesses (in Canada and the US) or the number of job vacancies at small businesses (in the UK) in the previous month and how that number has changed since the month before. The Index helps to eliminate almost all of the time lags in official statistics by providing estimated projections of what those statistics will ultimately show when they are published.

Sample sizes

The total sample across all three countries is around 424,000 small businesses. The Canadian sample is almost 66,000 small businesses. The US sample is almost 333,000 small businesses. The UK sample is almost 25,000 small businesses. The minimum sample sizes for regions or sectors to be included in the Index are 800 small businesses in Canada, 1,000 small businesses in the US, and 200 small businesses in the UK. 

Target populations

In Canada, the target population is small businesses with one to 19 employees. In the US and UK, the Index targets the populations of small businesses with one to nine employees. The differences ensure the Index’s data insights are consistent with official statistics in each country, which are used for benchmarking during the calibration process. Timely data insights for these populations of small businesses are particularly valuable since most datasets fail to cover this portion of the economy well. Please note: Unlike in Canada and the US, the UK Index uses job vacancy data for calibration rather than employment data because official employment statistics are not currently available for small businesses on a monthly basis. 

External data sources

External data sources used alongside the samples of anonymized QuickBooks Online Payroll customer data include:

Geographic regions

Industry sectors


This content is for information purposes only and should not be considered legal, accounting or tax advice, or a substitute for obtaining such advice specific to your business. Additional information and exceptions may apply. Applicable laws may vary by region, state or locality. No assurance is given that the information is comprehensive in its coverage or that it is suitable in dealing with a customer’s particular situation. Intuit does not have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented herein. Accordingly, the information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. Intuit does not warrant that the material contained herein will continue to be accurate nor that it is completely free of errors when published. Readers should verify statements before relying on them.

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