May 23, 2020 - Economy & Business

A glimmer of hope for small businesses

Data: Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

New findings from a weekly U.S. Census survey show that things might be slowly looking up for small businesses — or at least steadying.

The big picture: The number of companies reporting severe problems from COVID-19 — or of temporary closings or having to cut employee hours — has been dropping. At the same time, far more said they had received aid through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

By the numbers: The Census Bureau has surveyed tens of thousands of small businesses over the last several weeks and has released three weeks worth of results.

  • In the first batch of results, 38% of all respondents said they had received PPP money vs. 67% in the third batch.
  • In the most recent survey, 62% had seen revenues decline in the past week, but that was down from 74% in the first week.

Yes, but: It's still bad. And more and more small business owners (35%) say they don't expect be back to normal operations for more than 6 months.

  • Some states and territories have been harder hit than others. For example, in 12 states (plus D.C. and Puerto Rico), half or more of survey respondents said COVID-19 had had "large negative effects" on them.
    • That included 60% of small businesses in Puerto Rico, 59% in Hawaii and New York, and 58% in Michigan.
    • Nearly half of small businesses in Puerto Rico, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Jersey, Alabama and Louisiana only have enough cash on hand to last a month or less.

Some industries may never be the same. More than three-quarters of companies in the food and accommodation categories said they'd suffered "large negative effects" from the virus and shutdowns.

  • So had more than 70% in arts and recreation or education.
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