Jan 07, 2021 - 8:15pm

2021 State of American Business: Industry Perspectives

Half of Businesses Doing Worse Since Pandemic

Curtis Dubay, Senior Economist

The U.S. economy was tumultuous, to put it mildly, in 2020. It experienced the largest quarterly contraction on record in the second quarter -- more than -31 percent. The previous record contraction was -10 percent in 1958. Interestingly, that contraction was caused by the flu pandemic that year.

As testament to the resiliency of the U.S. economy, growth rebounded in the third quarter when it expanded more than 33 percent. The previous record expansion was 10 percent in 1950.

The fourth quarter numbers are not in yet, but expectations are for moderate growth because rising virus levels lead to reduced economic activity. Early 2021 will likely see those conditions continue, at least until vaccines are widely distributed 

Despite the encouraging rebound, not all industries are faring equally well. Some have fully recovered. Among that group there are some that are doing better than they were pre-pandemic. Others have not recovered and continue to struggle. Those tend to be industries whose businesses cannot operate fully, or at all, while the virus persists. 

To help show which industries are thriving, and which are hurting, we asked representatives from the various sectors to tell us how they are doing and give a short explanation of why. Of the 37 responses, 19 say they are doing slightly or much worse than pre-pandemic, 15 slightly or much better, and 3 the same – fairly uniform split.


Chart: Half of Businesses Doing Worse Since Pandemic
Chart: Half of Businesses Doing Worse Since Pandemic

Use the links at right or below to explore a more detailed explanation of the state of each of these industries.