U.S. Small-Business Confidence Drops to 4-Year Low

Optimism among small business owners has fallen to a four-year low as the pandemic drags on.

That’s one finding from a Bank of America Corp. survey of more than 1,000 entrepreneurs between July and September. Only 39% of respondents expect their local economy to improve in the next 12 months, down from 51% at the start of the year, the survey found. Hiring plans and revenue expectations are at the lowest levels since 2012 and 2013, respectively. Still, seven in 10 small-business owners say they plan to keep staffing levels steady in 2021.

U.S. Small-Business Confidence Drops to 4-Year Low

“Although we’ve had tough times this year, as we look ahead, there is optimism out there,” Sharon Miller, Bank of America’s head of small business, said in an interview, adding that the conclusion of the U.S. presidential election and prospects for coronavirus vaccines are helping to bolster the outlook. “With certainty comes economic prosperity.”

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank is the nation’s largest lender to small enterprises. It processed more that 300,000 loans as part of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, aiming to keep companies afloat as the coronavirus shuttered the economy.

The survey also found:

  • Respondents’ top three concerns were the political environment, impact of coronavirus and health care costs
  • More than four out of five respondents’ businesses stayed open in some capacity during the pandemic because they were deemed essential or adapted operations to comply with social-distancing guidelines
  • About 24% of business owners retooled operations to address the impact of coronavirus. Of those, 61% have developed new products or services, while 51% donated time, goods or services.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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