Survey: Most U.S. Small Businesses Yet to Feel Coronavirus Fallout

A cook prepares Thai fried rice in the kitchen at Osha Thai Restaurant May 5, 2008 in San
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The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released the results of a survey on Friday that shows most American small businesses have yet to feel the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Using a random sample of NFIB’s membership database of about 300,000 small business owners, the survey reveals “that while most small businesses are not currently impacted, owners are concerned about future disruptions if the outbreak continues to escalate.”

NFIB asked small business owners a series of questions:

The vast majority of small businesses (74 percent) are not currently impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. However, the coronavirus outbreak is negatively impacting about 23 percent of small business owners. Three percent are positively impacted.

Of those small business owners not currently impacted, 43 percent anticipate their business being impacted if the coronavirus outbreak spreads to, or spreads more broadly in, their immediate area over the next three months. Twenty percent do not expect to be impacted if the outbreak spreads, and another 37 precent are not sure.

Of those businesses negatively impacted, 39 percent are experiencing supply chain disruptions, 42 percent slower sales, and 4% sick employees. The four percent of owners citing sick employees likely responded this way out of heightened concern and precautions with sick employees showing some signs of cold or flu-like symptoms, not necessarily because they have employees who have tested positive for the virus.

Most small business owners say that while they are not currently impacted, many are nonetheless being proactive about protecting their operation and employees. Thirty percent said they have stocked up on disinfectant and hand sanitizer and 12 percent said they are speaking with employees about sick leave and work from home policies.

A small number of survey respondents – three percent – have modified their supply chain or changed buyers or vendors. 

But a majority of small businesses – 52 percent – have not felt the immediate need to take any action.

The report on the survey says:

The level of concern among small business owners about the coronavirus impacting their business varies greatly in these initial weeks of the outbreak. About 44 percent of small business owners are ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ concerned about its potential impact on their business (28 percent and 16 percent respectively). Another 37 percent are slightly concerned and 18 percent, not at all concerned.

The survey was conducted by email between March 10 and 11 using 300 “usable responses,” from businesses with one to 120 employees.

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