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Small Businesses More Likely to Expect Longer Recovery in Census Survey

  • Second phase of U.S. Census Bureau survey on COVID-19 impact on small businesses finds respondents more likely to expect a longer road back to normalcy
  • Majority of respondents report negative impact on business, but some positive signs such as healthy cash on hand and minimal missed loan payments
  • Businesses see marketing/sales and additional capital as key future needs

Small businesses across the United States are less likely to report a major negative impact on their company due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest Small Business Pulse Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. At the same time, the owners of these businesses were preparing for a longer road to recovery.

First launched in the week of April 26 to May 2, the survey asked several questions on how the pandemic has impacted the finances of small businesses; it occurred weekly through June 27. The second phase of the survey, which started the week of Aug. 9-15 and will run through Oct. 4-10, incorporates similar topics but also assesses topics such as the impact of federal assistance and whether companies have been rehiring furloughed employees.

The results of the Aug. 9-15 survey were recently published, with 40.3 percent reporting that the pandemic has had a large negative effect on their company and 38.4 percent reporting a moderate negative impact. This marked an improvement from the survey’s first week, when 50.1 percent said they were experiencing a large negative effect and 38.5 percent reported a moderate negative impact.

Business owners were delaying their expectations for a return to normal. In the survey’s first week, 31.4 percent believed it would take their business more than six months to return to its usual level of operations while 27.7 percent expected a recovery in four to six months. In the most recent results, 47.6 percent said they think it will take more than six months to get back to normal while just 15.7 percent expected a recovery within four to six months.

The most recent survey results showed some positive trends, with the vast majority of businesses saying they hadn’t missed a loan payment and more than half of companies reporting enough cash on hand for at least one to three months of operations. While 34.7 percent said they had seen a decrease in revenues in the past week, this was down from 74 percent in the first week of the survey.

Respondents were most likely to say their future needs would require more marketing and sales (32.8 percent), followed by additional financial assistance or capital (26.8 percent) and identifying or hiring new employees (23.4 percent). A total of 5.5 percent said they expect they will need to permanently close their business.

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