Survey: State businesses bouncing back

Posted on Jun 18, 2020 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive
Posted by of Insight Publications

Wisconsin businesses continue to demonstrate resilience during the pandemic as 41 percent of respondents to a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh statewide economic survey indicate they have introduced or expanded online services over the last three months.

“The survey results illustrate a business community that is reopening. Like any economic shock or natural disaster, the early days of this process have brought a reassessment of conditions and plans to move forward,” said Jeffrey Sachse, director of UW-Oshkosh’s Center for Customized Research and Services. “Responding businesses have proven extremely resilient, but challenges remain in tourism-driven and customer-facing industries.”

Results from the third in a series of monthly impact surveys also revealed that businesses continue to seek financial assistance amid the COVID-19 crisis, with 60 percent of respondents requesting assistance and 52.4 percent receiving aid.

“Estimates of business survivability increased, with only 10 percent of respondents estimating survivability of less than three months,” Sachse said. “It will be important to continue to assess this measure throughout the summer as many businesses continue to operate with significant restrictions.”

UW-Oshkosh is partnering on the survey project with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. as well as New North Inc. and eight other Regional Leadership Council organizations to assess COVID-19 recovery ability and state and federal aid efforts.

“This third observation period presented a much more business-optimistic view, in that only 14 percent of the respondents stated they were not open,” said Barb LaMue, president and CEO of New North Inc. “While we know much work is yet to be done, these are all positive trends in our economy’s reopening.”


The June survey yielded 744 responses — a significant decrease from the 1,126 responses received in May and 2,424 received in April. Sachse attributes the decline in participation to two related issues.

“We noted a strong correlation among businesses that reported low survivability and nonresponse in the May survey results. This trend continued this month,” he said. “Similarly, the survey period of June 1-13 correlates with the beginning of the summer tourism season and comes three weeks after the reopening of the state. A decrease in response was anticipated as business owners continue the process of resuming operations.”

Responding businesses reported May 2020 losses of:

  • $22.2 million in income
  • $6.4 million in inventory
  • $13.7 million in wages and productivity
  • $37.8 million in other economic factors
  • 2,648 positions

Each of the reported losses marks a significant decrease from previous months.

“The inventory loss estimate is especially notable, as it represents a 67 percent decrease when reported on a per-firm basis,” Sachse said.

Most responding firms reported being open for business, with 14 percent needing additional resources to do so or deciding not to open. In addition, 5 percent of responding firms also reported hiring staff in the past month. Many firms expect the losses attributed to the pandemic to continue through the remainder of 2020, with several firms reporting that losses are just beginning to appear.

The CCRS research will continue, and the fourth iteration of the survey will be available to responding businesses and partner organizations from July 1 to 12. The July survey results will present a clearer picture of business in this “new normal,” Sachse said.