open sign on the door of a business

Final Small Business Pulse Survey of 2020 a Mixed Bag

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


Golf Courses Rake in the Green Amid the Pandemic

So many businesses have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic, in part because of mandates on capacity or other restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. But other industries have actually been thriving as a result of the pandemic. You might initially think about companies that make personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, or video conferencing technology, but another niche that has been booming is golf courses and country clubs.

Read more


A Closer Look at Veteran-Owned Businesses

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons (SBO, 2012), 2.52 million businesses in the United States were majority-owned by veterans. Of this number, 442,485 veterans were employers, and 2.08 million were non-employers. In fact, 10.3 percent of all owners who responded to the 2012 SBO were veterans, and 7.3 percent of those veteran-respondents had service-connected disabilities.

Read more


Some Retail and Food Services Sales Gaining, Others Continue to Slump

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data on estimated retail and food services sales for the month of September. Estimated numbers are based on early reports from a small sampling of companies selected from the larger Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS) sample. You can view the Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services, September 2020 here.

Read more


Latest Small Business Pulse Survey Shows Improvements

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.

Read more


How Supply Chains Have Been Affected by COVID-19

In addition to millions of people becoming ill, the COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for our economy. We’ve seen millions of job losses. Businesses have watched their profits plummet, leading some to close permanently. The stock market has experienced dizzying volatility. A key contributor to the economic impacts has been disruption in the supply chain, especially for goods and components coming from China.

Read more


Jobless Claims Remain Steady, Though Elevated

The latest jobs report from the Department of Labor (DOL) showed that for the week ending September 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims was 870,000. This marks an uptick of 4,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level (Sept. 12) was revised up by 6,000 from 860,000 to 866,000.

Read more


August Retail Sales: Are the Winners and Losers Starting to Plateau?

The Census Bureau released the Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services, August 2020 report last week. Adjusted for seasonal variations, advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August 2020 were $537.5 billion. That’s an increase of 0.6 percent from July and a 2.6 percent boost versus August of last year. Total sales for the three-month period June through August of this year were up 2.4 percent over the same period in 2019

Read more


Service Sectors Struggle to Regain Past Quarters’ Revenue Levels

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the selected services estimates for the second quarter of 2020. The survey revealed that total revenue for the second quarter of 2020 (seasonally adjusted, but not adjusted for price changes) was $3,650.4 billion. That’s down 9.1 percent as compared to first quarter of 2020 and down 9.3 percent versus the second quarter of 2019.

Read more