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Gauging optimism among small business since 1973

William Dunkelberg has spent almost 50 years consulting for the National Federation of Independent Business

Dunkelberg speaks Feb. 12 at the NFIB Texas Small Business Day conference in Austin
Dunkelberg speaks Feb. 12 at the NFIB Texas Small Business Day conference in Austin.

In a time when short-term employment is more and more the norm, William Dunkelberg’s near-half century working with the National Federation of Independent Business stands out. The longtime chief economist for the group, also known as “Dunk,” has been creating the “Small Business Optimism Index” since October 1973, when he first sent out a survey to small businesses. 

It was a quarterly survey until 1986, when NFIB switched to a monthly survey. That meant Dunk had to write three times as much as before, but he says he didn’t mind. The ups and downs of the optimism index are widely reported by financial media when the data is released the second Tuesday of each month.