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Latest Small Business Pulse Survey Shows Improvements

Posted October 22, 2020 by Bill Walker

Final results from phase two of the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey were released last week, offering new first-hand perspectives on how the pandemic is impacting businesses. Participating businesses must be non-farm, single-location businesses and must have receipts greater than or equal to $1,000, and 500 employees or fewer.

Phase one of the weekly survey took place from April through June of this year and examined the ways in which COVID-19 was affecting small businesses. Phase two built on key findings of the first phase of the study and examined business owners’ sentiments from August through the first week in October. Their responses are quite revealing. Let’s take a look at some of the survey results from phase two for the week of October 4 — 10.

Overall, negative impacts are improving

By industry

The first question in the weekly survey is, “Overall, how has this business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?” Of the small business respondents, 30.2 percent reported a “large negative effect” — down from the 38.2 percent reported at the end of phase one of the survey in June.

According to early-October results, the most severely affected industry segments were:

  • Accommodation and food services (63.7 percent answering “large negative effect”)
    • Accommodation is down from 68.1 percent reporting a “large negative effect” in June.
    • Food services was at 69.4 percent in June.
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation (59.6 percent answering “large negative effect”)
    • Amusement, gambling, and recreation is down from 67.2 percent in June.
    • Performing arts and spectator sports was at 65.6 percent reporting a “large negative effect” in June.

As you can see, while a large number of businesses in these verticals are still reporting hardships from the pandemic, the percentage of those saying it’s had a “large negative effect” has actually decreased in recent months.

By geography

Broken out by geography, the October 4 — 10 survey found that the locations with the most respondents reporting a “large negative effect” to their business as a result of the pandemic were:

  • Washington, D.C., where 45.1 percent of respondents note that the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business. This is down from 56.3 percent from the last week in June.
  • Alaska, with 42.7 percent of respondents saying the pandemic has had a “large negative effect.” This is up from just 34.4 percent of businesses saying this in late June — the outlier location among this list where the picture seems to have worsened.
  • Hawaii, which had 2 percent of respondents report the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business. This number is down from late June when 54.2 percent of businesses said the pandemic has had a “large negative effect.”
  • New York, with 40.7 percent of respondents saying the pandemic has had a “large negative effect.” This percentage is also down from 50.7 percent of respondents saying this at the end of June.

At the state level, you can see that businesses in many (though not all) states are improving in their perception of how badly the pandemic has impacted their business.

Decreased revenue…but improving

On average, 29.9 percent of respondents to the October 4 — 10 report say that their revenue is down. Compare that to the late June survey when 42. 6 percent of respondents said revenue was down.

Examining revenue levels based on metropolitan statistical area (MSA), we see some more interesting trends emerge with the latest survey. The three MSAs with the most respondents reporting decreased revenue, as well as a large negative impact on their business, are:

  • Las Vegas/Henderson/Paradise, Nevada
  • New York/Newark/Jersey City area
  • San Francisco/Oakland/Berkeley area.

But when you look more closely at the data from those areas, there may be cause for hope.

Las Vegas, Nevada area

The Las Vegas, Nevada area has been hard-hit by the pandemic. Of respondents for the October 4 — 10 reporting period, 31.3 percent there say their revenue has decreased. Also, 42.4 percent of respondents from this MSA say the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business.

However, both of these statistics are improving. When comparing the most recent numbers to those from late June, we see a more positive picture now. In the June 21 — 27 survey, more than half (50.8 percent) of respondents said that their revenues had dropped, and 48.1 percent said that the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business.

New York/Newark/Jersey City

Looking at data from the greater New York city area, 32.5 percent of respondents in the most-recent survey said that their businesses’ revenue had decreased because of the pandemic. Also, 41.6 percent of those who took part in the survey for the first week of October said that the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business.

Things may be looking up for people in this MSA, however. Looking at the results from the June 21 — 27 survey, 40.5 percent said that revenues had decreased, and 53.7 percent reported a “large negative effect” on their business as a result of the pandemic.

San Francisco Bay area

Data from survey respondents in the San Francisco/Oakland/Berkeley area paints a similar picture to these other MSAs. For the October 4 — 10 reporting period, 31.8 percent said that the pandemic has resulted in decreased revenue for their business. In this same time period, 40 percent of respondents from this area said the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business.

But again, like with the other MSAs above, the overall business situation in the Bay Area seems to be improving, as compared to previous surveys. Looking at the June 21 — 27 results, half of respondents said they had experienced a decline in revenue. Also during late June, 45.9 percent of those surveyed said they have had a “large negative effect” on their business as a result of the pandemic.

A somewhat sunnier picture

The Pulse Survey allows you to slice and dice its data in a number of ways to explore how certain locations or aspects of business have been impacted by the pandemic. As with many of the economic reports we are seeing lately, the most recent Pulse Survey does offer glimmers of hope for our nation’s businesses. In general, statistics from the October 4 — 10 reporting period are trending toward improvement in many niches and geographies. 

>> You can learn more about how specific industries have been impacted by COVID-19 by visiting our free COVID-19 webpage.

 

Image credit: energepic.com from Pexels

Tags: economy, COVID-19

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