Informed decision-making on retooling, reopening the economy and long-term recovery from COVID-19 requires good data. Here it is.
Good planning requires information. We’ve aggregated Canada’s foremost economic dashboards on COVID-19 indicators to help cross-sectoral decision makers make informed choices on retooling, reopening, and recovery. Additionally, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Statistics Canada to create the most comprehensive picture, or dataset, of business impacts and decisions amid the current health crisis through the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions.
The Canadian Survey on Business Conditions
The Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), a joint effort between Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, provides the most detailed insight yet into the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian businesses.
The survey is Canada’s first comprehensive view into how our businesses are adapting, managing or, sadly, failing as the COVID-19 shutdown continues. Insights from 12,600 businesses bring into focus the time pressures businesses face to avoid closing their doors permanently. At the same time, the survey also shows how quickly the businesses that can are adapting to social distancing and preparing for the re-opening of the economy. The survey provides critical information for governments as they develop and deliver their programs.
The CBSC examined issues like the COVID-19’s impact on businesses, how businesses have adapted to the ongoing situation, challenges they continue to face and those they expect as the recovery begins. The survey was in market between April 4, 2020 and April 24, 2020.
Highlights from CSBC Results
How much of a cash buffer did businesses have going into COVID-19
- 42.2% couldn’t operate longer than 60 days without a source of revenue
- 51.1% couldn’t operate longer than 90 days without a source of revenue
Extent to which businesses have experienced a decrease in demand
- 80.9% have experienced a medium to high drop in demand for services or products
Change in business revenue in Q1 2020 compared to Q1 2019
- 10.5% experienced an increase in revenue
- 14.3% saw no change in revenue
- 17.9% experienced a decrease in revenue of up to 20%
- 53.5% experienced a decrease in revenue of over 20%
Length of time businesses can remain partially or fully open amid social distancing measures
- 17.5% say no amount of time amid social distancing
- 22.2% say they could open for no longer than 3 months amid social distancing
- 11.9% say they could open between 3 and 6 months amid social distancing
- Only 32.1% say they could remain open longer than 6 months amid social distancing
Staffing decisions taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
- 38.1% have reduced staff hours or shifts
- 40.5% have laid off staff
Select findings exploring the resiliency of Canadian businesses include:
- 17.9% of businesses have altered methods of production
- 35.4% of businesses have altered products or services offered
- 45.4% of businesses are using new methods to interact with customers
- 44.5% of businesses are testing working from home
- 11.6% of businesses are testing e-commerce
- 10.6% are trying new staff training
- 62.3% of businesses say they can return to a state of normal operations within one month of social distancing measures being removed
In-depth: differences between Canadian averages and diverse owners
The CSBC is the only large-scale survey to capture the impacts of COVID-19 upon businesses owned by diverse segments of the population, including women, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, immigrants and people with disabilities.
The topline numbers suggest that COVID-19 had a more severe impact on diversity-owned businesses:
- 71.14% of diversity-owned businesses experienced a high drop in demand, compared with the national average (64.8%)
- 34.74% of diversity-owned businesses experienced a 50% or more decrease in revenue, compared with the national average (26.2%)
- 51.06% of diversity-owned businesses said they could remain open for no longer than 60 days without a source of revenue, compared with the national average (42.2%)
- 48.92% of diversity-owned businesses said they could remain open for no longer than 3 months amid social distancing, compared with the national average (39.7%).
However, if they can weather the crisis, the data indicate that each group expects to rebound in a similar time and fashion as other businesses across the country.
Further, there are several notable data points demonstrating innovation and ingenuity:
- Indigenous-owned and visible minority-owned businesses have tested or used R&D at a higher rate (11.1% and 8.6%) than national average (5.7%)
- 17% of businesses owned by those with disabilities tested or used e-commerce during the crisis compared to the national average (11.6%)
- Women-owned business have increased investment in training and education at a higher rate (16.2%) than the national average (11.3%)
The survey results are the first to demonstrate how diverse segments of business owners are experiencing the COVID-19 crisis. It shows their resiliency in adapting to new economic conditions. These findings will be useful for policy makers and business leaders to ensure an inclusive recovery.
In-depth: data shows businesses facing international trade and investment challenges
The CSBC is the first large-scale survey to capture the impacts of COVID-19 being faced by Canadian exporters. A cursory view of the topline numbers suggest that Canadian businesses with domestic and global supply chains are seeing acute pressures.
Several notable data points demonstrate the effects of the pandemic on companies involved in international trade, including:
- Disruption: Only 16.8% of all businesses and 14.5% of exporters reported no disruption experienced by suppliers. However, the no-disruption rate plummets to 6.4% of those who supply to exporters and 6.5% for importers.
- Movement of goods: Moving goods within Canada to exporters or bringing goods into the country has proven to be more cumbersome compared to those businesses who export outright. 41% of all Canadian businesses reported no problems moving goods and 30% of exporters reported no problems. The rate of those reporting no problems drops to 16.2% for companies that supply exporters and 19.9% for importers.
- Demand: While decrease in demand affected all businesses, it had differing impacts on those involved in international trade. 28.9% of importers, 24.5% of firms investing outside of Canada, and 23% of exporters have discontinued a product. Notably only 19.8% of businesses have discontinued a product if they supply a Canadian exporter.
- Investment: 21.3% of Canadian businesses that invest abroad reported postponing M&A compared to the national average of 5.9%. Additionally, businesses that invest abroad have been significantly more likely to scale back on R&D with 24.2% reporting scaling back versus the national average of 6.9%.
It is still very much early days as businesses assess the short-term impacts of COVID-19 on their international activities compared to lasting trends. However, the difficulties businesses are facing with sourcing goods into the country, the pullback of activities for those with investments abroad and the global supply chain disruptions as economies shut down suggests we may be seeing some firms exploring the re-shoring of production.
Disruptions faced by businesses supplying to an exporter is also a symptom of problems the Canadian Chamber has heard from businesses concerned about interprovincial restrictions that have been amplified by COVID-19. Overcoming these barriers will be key for Canada to be a reliable supply chain hub in a dramatically new global economy.
In-depth: smaller businesses hit 50% harder by COVID-19
The Canadian Chamber/Statistics Canada Survey of Business demonstrates some surprising resilience of small- and medium-sized businesses despite having outsized disadvantages when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The disadvantages? Compared to the national average, 50% more SMEs said they didn’t have enough cash to keep their doors open longer than 60 days without any revenue. Similarly, nearly double the percentage of SMEs said they had experienced a 20% decrease in revenue.
The positives? SMEs punched above their weight in testing working from home, with 55.5% saying they had done so compared to 45.5% of all businesses. Surprisingly, 40.9% of SMEs said they could remain open amid social distancing more than 6 months compared to 32.1% of all businesses.
These results demonstrate the agility of Canadian SMEs in responding to their new business conditions and optimism in their ability to adapt and succeed no matter what.
In-depth: retail sector among hardest hit
The CSBC is the first large-scale survey to capture the impacts of COVID-19 being faced by Canadian retailers. A review of the topline numbers, alongside Labour Force Survey Data, confirms that Canadian retail is among the most impacted by this pandemic.
As a non-essential service, and a sector that has traditionally relied on physical in-store contact, the retail sector felt the affects of closures and social distancing from the very beginning of the crisis. Where other sectors have caught up, such as construction and recreation, these sectors are, overall, second only to the food and accommodation sector in terms of shock. Notably, the wholesale and retail sector actually experienced greater job losses (-374,000) than the accommodation and food services sector (-320,500) in April 2020,
Several notable data points in the CSBC demonstrate the effects of the pandemic on companies involved in the retail sector, including:
- Revenue loss and ability to remain open: 47.7% of retailers indicated that they had lost more than 30% of revenue in the first weeks of the crisis, and of that, 27.7% had experienced a decrease in excess of 50%. Within this context, 40% of retailers indicated they would have to close over 3-6 months if social distancing measures remained in place
- Staff layoffs and reduced hours: 50% of retailers indicated they have had to lay off staff, and 55% indicated they had to reduce staff hours. In a similar vein, the April 2020 Labour Force Survey showed that 582,000 jobs were lost in the wholesale and retail trade sectors over the first two months of the crisis, a staggering 20.2% loss. Over the same period, there was a 31% decrease in hours worked.
- Innovation and Resiliency: Almost 30% of Canadian retailers introduced one or more of the following innovations in their business practices: maintaining business connections virtually, working from home for their employees, and e-commerce. The latter was of particular interest to retailers, who have been testing online services at more than twice the rate of the national average (27.8% versus the national average of 11.6%).
As we look to reopening and recovery, although 1 in 4 retail businesses indicated they have concerns with finding, recruiting and retaining talent going forward, almost 50% indicated that they could resume normal operations within a month.
However, it is not going to be an easy road ahead. This is not going to be like previous economic recoveries where first impacted sectors are first back. We as consumers will need to support the resiliency of the retail businesses and employees to ensure the best recovery for the sector possible.
In-depth: travel, tourism, and hospitality sector
As the one of the first sectors to bear the economic impacts of COVID-19, the travel, tourism, and hospitality sector will consequently be one of the last to fully recover as consumers face new realities in a post-COVID scenario.
The Canadian Survey on Business Conditions revealed that 42% of businesses in the accommodation and food sectors, compared to 26% of all businesses, are reporting revenue drops of over 50%. Just over a quarter of companies in these sectors cannot maintain full or even partial operations while social distancing measures are in place, compared to the national average of 17.5%. The statistics illustrate the highly precarious position that businesses in these sectors find themselves in and demonstrate that the federal government should move quickly to provide support.
The federal government has taken some action to help firms whose business is primarily seasonal in the form of a $1 billion regional relief fund. This funding will help to some extent, but inevitably, businesses in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector will require more targeted support.
Apart from short-term liquidity constraints, reopening these economic sectors will require consumer confidence and trust in the system. Consumers will need to trust that businesses are taking all the precautions and measures necessary to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, be it through appropriate disinfection of facilities or implementation of social distancing guidelines. Trust takes time, and time is in short supply in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector.
COVID-19: A data perspective, by Statistic Canada
As the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the world, Statistics Canada is providing an accurate picture of what is happening in Canada in order to empower governments, businesses and Canadians alike with the information they need to respond to, and recover from this pandemic.
More data from across the CBRN
Deloitte: Economic Recovery Dashboard
Real-time data from across the spectrum tracking health, community/social activity, and economic indicators that will signal when the rebound stage has arrived.
Google: Mobility Tracker
The Mobility Tracker from Google provides aggregated, anonymized insights that could be helpful as public health officials make critical decisions to combat COVID-19. Community Mobility Reports aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19. The reports chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.
C.D. Howe: Economic Dashboard
C.D. Howe’s COVID-19 Dashboard provides at-a-glance indicators of economic activity amidst the unfolding global pandemic. Information is updated daily to provide data-driven insight into the economic impact of the crisis.
EDC: COVID-19: Insights on the impact on Canadian businesses
Business resilience and resourcefulness are on full display during these challenging times. While a vast majority of companies are struggling to deal with the challenges imposed by the coronavirus, many Canadian exporters are successfully pivoting to respond to new realities. EDC’s survey results highlight the importance of government programs being rapidly deployed to meet critical business funding needs.
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