PNC Survey: Small-Business Optimism Rises behind Vaccine Push

PITTSBURGH – Increasing vaccination rates are giving business owners a more positive outlook in the short term for their companies, according to a national survey by PNC.

In the bank’s semi-annual Economic Outlook survey – conducted during August – 79% said they have encouraged employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, 48% are requiring vaccinations and 44% are providing assistance related to vaccinations. 

In addition, 26% are incentivizing getting vaccinated and 24% have placed restrictions on employees who choose not be vaccinated.

“The survey results demonstrate that most business owners believe the vaccine can have a positive impact on their businesses,” said PNC chief economist Gus Faucher in the survey report. “Further, business owner optimism rises as vaccination rates increase, indicating that efforts to support vaccinations broadly could strengthen the economic recovery.”

The efforts seems to be having an impact, the survey report said, with 78% of respondents estimating that the majority of their employees are vaccinated and 43% who believed that their entire workforce had gotten the vaccine. 

As for the outlook itself, 71% of respondents expected sales to increase over the next six months, while 58% forecast an increase in profits.

“Although conditions changed rapidly in August as the Delta variant became more prominent and COVID-19 cases rose, there was essentially no change in sales growth expectations between the first and second halves of the month,” Faucher said. “While optimism for leaders’ own business prospects tempered as the month progressed, it is still significantly higher than it was earlier this year, and the economic outlook remains solid.”

At the same time, more than half – 54% – expected to increase their prices in the next six months, with 36% expecting to increase their prices by more than 5%.

Small-business owners also noted that they continue to struggle in attracting employees, with the availability of workers being the most-mentioned business concern, beating out sales and supply chain problems that were atop the list in the year’s first survey.

More than four in 10 employers say they are offering increased compensation to retain or attract new employees, implementing employee health or safety improvements (46%) and allowing more flexible work arrangements (44%).

Among business owners who are hiring and experiencing challenges, 58% said greater unemployment compensation benefits – which have since ended – were the primary cause, with 55% citing worker concerns about workplace health and safety; 45% saying workers’ priorities have changed; and 45% saying workers are demanding higher pay.

The PNC Economic Outlook survey was conducted via telephone between Aug. 2 and Aug. 31 among businesses with self-reported revenue between $100,000 and $250 million. There were 500 interviews conducted nationally.

The full survey report can be read HERE.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

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