Small Business Owners Still Feel Pain of Pandemic and Fear More to Come

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 - 9:30am

Small businesses in Midwest are least likely to have plans to increase staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Small businesses anticipate the worst of the pandemic is still ahead and half (50%) of small businesses see their operations continuing for a year or less in the current business climate before having to permanently close according to a new poll taken October 30 – November 10 and released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife. The survey also found that small businesses in the Midwest are least likely to have plans to increase staff despite reporting the best cash flow compared to other regions.

Amid a new surge in cases across the nation, most (62%) small businesses fear that the worst is still to come with COVID-19’s economic impact and three-quarters (74%) of all small business owners say they need further government assistance to weather the storm. That percentage increases to 81% when looking at minority-owned businesses. Only four in 10 (40%) of all small business owners believe their business can continue to operate indefinitely without having to shut down permanently.   

“The impact of coronavirus continues to take a devastating toll on America’s small businesses. In fact, half of them say they can operate for a year or less before closing permanently,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We must ensure small businesses across the country receive the assistance they need from the federal government. Not passing the bipartisan compromise for temporary and targeted relief risks the permanent loss of tens of thousands of small businesses, financial hardship for millions of Americans, and unnecessary delays in combatting the pandemic.

Regional findings include:

  • Sentiments among small businesses in the Midwest are largely unchanged from the third quarter. A slim majority of Midwestern small businesses report good business health (51%). Nearly two-thirds (65%) feel comfortable about their cash flow situation—the highest region in the nation (48% in the Northeast, 61% in the South, 63% in the West).
  • The Midwest comes second in reporting good local economic health: 34% of Midwestern small businesses see a good local economy (Southern small businesses say 35% and Westerners 33%).
  • Midwest small business are least likely to plan to increase staff. Just 21% in the Midwest have those plans (31% in the South, 28% in the West, 25% in the Northeast).

The regional Small Business Index score for the Midwest is 53.4. This compares to the Northeast (52.4), the South is (53.1), and the West (52.7). 

Nationally, the current Small Business Index score is 52.9 (a slight increase of 2.6 points from 50.3 in Q3). However, the new score remains substantially below findings before the pandemic struck: the Index score was 71.7 in Q1 of 2020, based on data collected before the full economic impact of the coronavirus set in.    

About the Small Business Index  

The MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index is part of a multiyear collaboration by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber to elevate the voice of America’s small business owners and highlight the important role they play in the nation’s economy. The initiative produces the quarterly Index, which is a survey of 1,000 small businesses to take the temperature of the sector, see where small business owners are confident, and where they are experiencing challenges.  

From April – July 2020, MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had switched to producing a special monthly coronavirus report, the Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll. To read those reports, visit uschamber.com/sbpoll

For small business resources on the coronavirus, please visit uschamber.com/co. The latest resources, step-by-step guidance, and insights to help American businesses, workers, and families is available at uschamber.com/coronavirus.  

About MetLife  

MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates (“MetLife”), is one of the world’s leading financial services companies, providing insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management to help its individual and institutional customers navigate their changing world. Founded in 1868, MetLife has operations in more than 40 countries and holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.metlife.com. Please visit www.sbindex.us for the full results and methodology.