Saskatchewan had its share of challenges for businesses in 2015.

Tanking oil prices caused job losses in the oil sector, and that rippled through the economy. 

It forced the government to put the brakes on spending. Now, Saskatchewan is projecting a $262 million deficit, instead of a $100 million surplus.

All of this has small business optimism ebbing.

Nevertheless, Marilyn Braun-Pollon, vice-president of Prairie and Agri-business with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said Saskatchewan businesses are dealing with it well.

"Our entrepreneurs here are resilient and have weathered this storm fairly well compared to our neighbours to the west where they have seen a record-low (business optimism) index, an all-time record low for the second time in four months," Braun-Pollon said.

Saskatchewan far ahead of Alberta

Braun-Pollon was referring to the CFIB's monthly business barometer, which measures optimism among small business owners.

She said optimism in Saskatchewan ended the year on a stronger note, with an index of 56.3 in December, increasing from an index of 52.7 in November. It is now above the national average index of 55.7.

Alberta's index sits at 33.1, and remains the only province below the national average, she said.

Saskatchewan still has several things going for it, Braun-Pollon continued.

"We have a growing population. We've got amongst the lowest unemployment rates in the country."

"What you're going to see is a labour pool that's looking for work" - Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB

Although the job vacancy rate has gone down, there remain about 9,000 jobs going unfilled for more than four months.

"Saskatchewan is still holding its own, but our message going into now 2016 — to the federal, provincial and municipal governments — is that don't make a bad situation worse by hiking taxes or increasing the cost of doing business," Braun-Pollon warned.

While around 14 per cent of CFIB members in Saskatchewan said they will cut jobs, about 30 per cent in Alberta said they will lay off staff in the next three to four months.    

"So what you're going to see is a labour pool that's looking for work," she said. This could draw people into Saskatchewan, and help fill those vacant jobs.

Braun-Pollon said wages could soften, although she expects they will stay competitive.