New poll: Staffing, inflation and virus worries sink small business owners’ confidence in country’s direction


DES MOINES, Iowa — Confidence is sinking fast in the direction of the country among small business owners, according to a new national survey shared with WHO 13 News from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices.

“What we found, which is most striking, is the overall sentiment among the small business community when it comes to how things are going in the U.S. has declined quite sharply,” explained Joe Wall, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices’ National Director.

Nearly three in ten small business owners surveyed lost confidence in the country’s direction from June to September.

June: 67% September: 38%

(Image courtesy: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices)

Wall blames a combination of factors for the decline: The Delta variant of COVID-19, inflationary pressure on goods and services, along with continued struggles to attract and retain quality workers. “They’re getting kind of pinched on every side. They’re having a really tough time getting their employee base back up and running where it was pre-COVID. They’re also obviously dealing with inflationary pressures,” Wall said.

The survey found that three in four small business owners are concerned about the Delta variant, which has proven to be more contagious than the virus’ original form. A University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics fact sheet shows the Delta strain is 75 percent more contagious.

(Image courtesy: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices)

In Iowa, patients with hospitalized with COVID-19 has reached the highest level since January and is now approximately one-third as many as the peak last November, when vaccines were not yet available.

Wall said continued fears about the virus has kept some people out of the workforce as they deal with health concerns, family obligations and child care challenges. “That anxiety has intensified with a lot of breakthrough cases with the Delta variant proving to be incredibly contagious, even for those who are vaccinated,” he said.

Those concerns multiply what was already a problem for many small business owners: Staffing. According to the survey, nearly three in four small business owners are currently hiring but nearly nine in ten find it difficult to recruit and retain the employees they want. “Some have made drastic life-changing decisions,” Wall said about people’s reluctance to re-enter the workforce.

(Image courtesy: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices)

Others have found that they want to work remotely–an ability that some employers offered for the first time as a way to keep workers apart from each other during the pandemic–because they liked the flexibility and appreciated the chance to become more involved in their family’s activities or to move out of bigger cities and the traffic and expenses that come with living there. However, Wall said that is a challenge for many smaller companies. “They don’t have the ability to convert their employee base to remote.”

Some consumers are pulling back on spending because of their concerns about the virus. Consumers are also noticing the increased costs of goods and services. So are small businesses.

(Image courtesy: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices)

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