open sign on the door of a businessThe week 26 results from phase three of the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey were released last week, revealing year-end 2020 data on how the pandemic is impacting small businesses.

To participate in this survey, a business must be a non-farm, single-location entity and must have receipts greater than or equal to $1,000, but 500 employees or fewer. The survey includes information for the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). It captures data on:

  • > Small business operations and finances
  • > Requests and receipt of assistance
  • > Measures of overall well-being and expectations for recovery

Let’s take a look at some of the survey results from week 26, Dec. 28, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021.

Overall, numbers are steady

The first question in the weekly survey is, “Overall, how has this business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?” For week 26, 30.3 percent of small business respondents reported a “large negative effect.”

Throughout phase three of the survey, this number has remained within a narrow range, reaching a high of 31 percent for the week of Nov. 23 — Nov. 29 and a low of 29.7 percent for both the week of Nov. 9 — Nov. 15 and Nov. 16 — Nov. 22.

Interestingly, this number was at its highest in phase 1, week 1 of the Pulse Survey, April 26 — May 2. That week, 51.4 percent of survey respondents said the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business. Since then, the figure has gradually trended down and then flattened out to the current level.

Slight improvements for hardest-hit industries

According to these latest numbers for Dec. 28, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021, the most severely affected industry segments continue to be:

  • > Accommodation and food services (66.9 percent answering “large negative effect”)
    • – This sector was at 67.2 percent responding “large negative effect” the previous week (Dec. 21 — Dec. 27).
    • – For the last week in June (June 21 — 27), this sector was at 70.5 percent reporting a “large negative effect” from the pandemic.
  • > Arts, entertainment, and recreation (60.3 percent answering “large negative effect”)
    • – The previous week, 55.4 percent of respondents in this sector reported the pandemic has caused a “large negative effect.”
    • – In late June (June 21 — 27), however, 68.2 of survey respondents in this sector said they’d experienced a “large negative effect” from the pandemic, so overall, this number is trending downward.
  • > Educational services (56.2 percent answering “large negative effect”)
    • – This sector was at 56.9 percent responding “large negative effect” for the week of Dec. 21 — Dec. 27.
    • – The last week in June (June 21 — 27), 59.1 percent of respondents in this sector reported a “large negative effect” from the pandemic.

So, while many businesses in these and other verticals continue to struggle as a result of the pandemic, the percentage of those saying the pandemic is causing a “large negative effect” for the week does continue to gradually decrease overall.

Geographical differences

Broken out by geography, the latest survey reveals geographical differences for pandemic impacts to businesses. For the week of Dec. 28, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021, 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 42.7 percent of respondents note that the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business.
    • – This is down from 47.6 for the week of (Dec. 21 — 27).
    • – It is also markedly down from 56.3 percent in the last week in June (June 21 — 27).
  • > New York, with 40.6 percent of respondents saying the pandemic has had a “large negative effect.”
    • – This percentage is down from 41.8 percent the previous week.
    • – It is also down from 50.7 percent of respondents saying this at the end of June.
  • > Hawaii, which had 3 percent of respondents report the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business.
    • – This number is down substantially from late June when 54.2 percent of businesses said the pandemic has had a “large negative effect.”
  • > New Mexico, with 37.7 percent of respondents saying the pandemic has had a “large negative effect.”
    • – This figure is up fairly sharply from the previous week (Dec. 21 — 27) when just 31 percent of respondents in New Mexico noted a “large negative effect” from the pandemic.
    • – In late June, 33.5 percent of businesses said this.

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.

Fluctuating revenue

One question on the survey is, “In the last week, did this business have a change in operating revenues/sales/receipts, not including any financial assistance or loans?” For the week of Dec. 28, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021, 41.8 percent of respondents said that their revenue is down. For comparison, in the late June survey, 42. 6 percent of respondents said revenue was down.

Interestingly, the bigger change is in those reporting that revenue is up for their business. For the most recent survey, just 5.7 percent of respondents noted an increase in the business’s revenue. At the end of June (June 21 — 27), 19.7 percent of survey respondents had reported an increase in revenue.

A majority of businesses, 52.5 percent, report no change in their revenue for the most recent survey, however. Back in late June, 37.8 percent said this.

An economic snapshot

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 you can see from the excerpts discussed above, a large percentage of the nation’s small businesses are still struggling to deal with the challenges created by the pandemic. Overall, the picture seems to be improving when compared to June’s numbers, but substantial progress is still needed in order to return to pre-pandemic levels of prosperity.

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

 

Photo credit: Mike Petrucci, Unsplash