U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Skip Header

High Frequency Business Dynamics in the United States During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by:
Working Paper Number CES-21-06


Existing small businesses experienced very sharp declines in activity, business sentiment, and expectations early in the pandemic. While there has been some recovery since the early days of the pandemic, small businesses continued to exhibit indicators of negative growth, business sentiment, and expectations through the first week of January 2021. These findings are from a unique high frequency, real time survey of small employer businesses, the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey (SBPS). Findings from the SBPS show substantial variation across sectors in the outcomes for small businesses. Small businesses in Accommodation and Food Services have been hit especially hard relative to those Finance and Insurance. However, even in Finance and Insurance small businesses exhibit indicators of negative growth, business sentiment, and expectations for all weeks from late April 2020 through the first week of 2021. While existing small businesses have fared poorly, after an initial decline, there has been a surge in new business applications based on the high frequency, real time Business Formation Statistics (BFS). Most of these applications are for likely nonemployers that are out of scope for the SBPS. However, there has also been a surge in new applications for likely employers. The surge in applications has been especially apparent in Retail Trade (and especially Non-store Retailers). We compare and contrast the patterns from these two new high frequency data products that provide novel insights into the distinct patterns of dynamics for existing small businesses relative to new business formations.

Page Last Revised - April 21, 2023
Is this page helpful?
Thumbs Up Image Yes Thumbs Down Image No
255 characters maximum 255 characters maximum reached
Thank you for your feedback.
Comments or suggestions?


Back to Header