A&M Economist: It could be a long time before we're back to 100%

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Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 4:42 PM CDT
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First News at Four learned about a new joint survey between the Texas A&M Private Enterprise Research Center and the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce aimed at helping local business owners.

On Wednesday, we sat down with Dennis Jansen to talk about what that survey will do for researchers, local leaders, and small business owners.

He tells us the survey asks local businesses and establishments how they have been affected by COVID-19, the shutdowns, and the reopening. It asks businesses about their current operating status, whether they closed and reopened, their current operating level, the percentage of supplies they can receive and the percent of their goods and services they can ship.

Jansen adds, the survey asks local companies about their current staffing. If staffing has changed the survey asks about the number of workers furloughed, laid off, or newly hired. It asks what percentage of workers are currently being paid and what percentage are working from home. It also asks whether the business is opened to the maximum extent at this time and what if anything has made it difficult to recall workers.

The survey asks how the businesses weekly revenues are affected by COVID-19 and how long the business could survive under a shutdown.

The survey asks businesses whether they have sought bank loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster loans, and PPP loans.

The survey asks the business how much of their business is directly with TAMU or related to students, events, or activities related to TAMU.

It then asks the business if they anticipate that 2021 will be better, worse, or the same as 2019.

The survey also asks the industry in which the business operates.

Jansen says his organization hopes to have a good response rate. As of early this afternoon we have 107 completed responses and 70 are ‘in-process.’

Once the responses are collected, Jansen explains that his team will begin by tabulating the responses to each question in a series of tables and figures. They will summarize of the overall responses as well as responses by each industry group, and compare the results to other similarly designed surveys distributed in other areas. He tells us the idea is to see how the pandemic has affected local businesses, and how that impact varies across industries.

Jansen's team will also conduct a follow-up survey in the fall, so they can determine how rapidly the local businesses are recovering.

He tells us right now our economy is probably functioning at 85% - 90% of capacity. Our unemployment rate is nearly 10%, and there are individuals not counted or that are underemployed relative to before the pandemic. Jansen says returning to 100% of capacity will probably be a lengthy process. He says we will need to have all of the government’s shutdown rules relaxed, and we are quite a ways along the path to that goal. But he argues we will also need to have individual citizens comfortable with once again going out in public and interacting with each other and with local businesses. This includes comfort with travel, especially flying, and with gathering in large groups such as at Aggie football games. This will take considerably more time and may require the development and distribution of a safe and effective vaccine. He estimates some time in the second half of 2021 is when we can expect a return to normalcy... whatever that may be.

Watch the full interview in the player above.

See the related links section to access the small business survey.