Today, May 19th, BizFed submitted a press release to the media outlining key takeaways from the 2021 Business Outlook and Reopening Survey. See below for the press release and full poll results.
SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO MARK WILBUR, AND EMPLOYERS GROUP FOR EXECUTING THIS YEAR’S HISTORIC POLL
WE MADE HISTORY IN JUST 3 WEEKS & HOMELESSNESS STAYS AT #1
L.A. BUSINESS LEADERS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE NEXT 12 MOS.
BizFed’s 2021 Business Survey Sees Record Participation
Only 15.8% believe federal, state and local COVID-response programs helped their businesses
LOS ANGELES: As the Los Angeles region slowly re-emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and economically harmful business shutdowns, its business community is poised for a strong comeback in the next 12 months. A key finding in BizFed’s annual Pulse Poll is that 63.2% of business leaders throughout the greater Los Angeles area expressed either an “Optimistic” (47.9%) or “Very Optimistic” (15.3%) outlook for businesses in the state during the next year, with optimism outpacing pessimism by more than 8:1. Business leaders also voiced strong views that federal, state and local COVID-19 response programs did not help their businesses during the pandemic. In spite of the pandemic, homelessness remains the top concern among all business leaders surveyed.
The survey, completed by 782 respondents, included 214 participating organizations comprising 100% of BizFed’s membership spread across 19 industry sectors. The survey analyzed key topics that impact business operation and profitability including workforce levels, remote work, childcare challenges, the effectiveness of government relief programs and other topics.
“These comprehensive findings highlight how Los Angeles’ business leaders are ready to get back to work and feel largely positive about the next 12-months,” stated Tracy Hernandez, BizFed Founding CEO. “Barring unforeseen economic headwinds or government overreach, Los Angeles-area business leaders believe they are poised for economic growth, job creation and business expansion. That said, business leader concerns about homelessness and affordability must be addressed in tangible ways.”
KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
Businesses look more favorably about commercial real estate leases but uncertainty remains
Close to 29% of business leaders report that they will not (15.3%) or might not (13.3%) continue to lease their office space post-pandemic. This view represents an improvement from BizFed’s fall 2020 survey when 41.4% were either not continuing their lease (16%) or were unsure (25.4%). Industries with the highest probability of continuing their lease include chambers of commerce/trade associations (92.6%), manufacturing at 88.9%, financial service es at 87.1%, retail/wholesale at 84.4% and hospitality/restaurants at 76%. Equally important, fewer business leaders anticipate challenges of paying rent or a mortgage during the next year, with 60% not anticipating any challenges in 2021 versus 39.8% in spring 2020.
Workforce levels expected to increase but remote work will remain.
Roughly 40% of those businesses surveyed (38.3%) indicated that they anticipate their workforce will increase during the coming year, a positive sign for regional economic growth. The survey found that 24.4% of business leaders expect up to a 10% workforce increase and 13.9% anticipate an increase of more than 10%. Interestingly, more than 60% of business leaders anticipate that some or all of their employees will continue working remotely post-pandemic, either full- or part-time. This changing dynamic will influence office space requirements on a going-forward basis.
Childcare preventing employees from returning to the workplace
Post-pandemic, business leaders are increasingly confronting childcare issues and their impact on employees’ ability and/or willingness to return to work. More than two in five respondents (40.4%) report that an employee has cited childcare challenges as a reason for potentially not being able to return to the workplace.
“COVID has changed how employers and employees view where they work and how they work, whether it’s on-site, part-time in the office or full-time remote work at home,” stated Mark Wilbur, CEO, Employers Group and Everything HR. “Childcare and flexibility for parents has emerged as a critical and immediate issue that needs to be addressed by businesses of all sizes for purposes of retention and recruitment. Rethinking workforce management is a ‘Now’ discussion for HR and operations.”
Business leaders critical of government COVID programs but very specific about the best way to help business going forward
Business leaders critically view the effectiveness of U.S. Congress, Governor Gavin Newsom, the State Legislature and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in dealing with their recovery from the impact of the pandemic. In particular, more than a majority (51.1%) expressed the belief that the State Legislature and 54.8% expressed that Governor Gavin Newsom are not listening to business interests regarding reopening and restarting the economy.
Interestingly, the survey asked respondents in a neutral way about the impact of various government programs – Paid Sick Leave, Family and Medical Leave, Unemployment Benefits, Hero Pay, Cal/OSHA Regulations and Workers’ Compensation – on their employees or what impact these programs had on their business. Almost 40% (39.5%) of those surveyed felt these programs hindered their business. Only 15.8% felt their business was helped by these programs.
Business leaders were specific on what further ‘assistance’ they desire from government on a going-forward basis. Tax deductibility for COVID expenses (24%) and a reduction in some or all payroll taxes (22.4%) rated highest on the wish list. Almost 20% (19%) suggested that the government provide economic incentives to bring supply chains back to California and 17% favor the offering of liability protection post-COVID-19.
“Government’s rush to ‘help’ businesses and employers either occurred too late to make a difference or had the counter effect of making re-starting or reopening more challenging,” added BizFed 2021 Chair Donna Duperron, president and CEO, Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses are optimistic about the future but they are very specific on what they want government to do and not do on a going-forward basis.”
“The uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the inconsistent, unpredictable response by government at all levels negatively and dramatically influenced businesses, small and large,” added David Fleming, founding chair of BizFed. “Sensing that ‘life after COVID’ is close at hand, businesses are preparing for a future – one they view with cautious optimism. That’s good news for the Los Angeles region.”
Homelessness 2021’s top issue for the second consecutive year
As BizFed has done in its previous 13 surveys, survey respondents were asked to identify issues they consider either “Extremely Critical” or “Somewhat Critical” and then rank those in order of importance. Prior to 2020, high taxes and fees had a nine-year run as the top issue; however, for the past two years, homelessness has been rated as the most concerning issue for Los Angeles area business owners. This year’s top five issues are as follows:
- Homelessness: For the second consecutive year, the top business concern, after ranking as low as 17th in 2017, was Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis. More than 95% of those surveyed rated it as “Extremely Critical” or “Somewhat Critical.”
- Taxes & Fees: This issue, which until 2020 ranked as the top concern among Los Angeles-area businesses, ranked a close second to homelessness for the second consecutive year.
- Crime: After jumping from #12 to #3 in 2020, business concern about crime rated as “Extremely Critical” or “Somewhat Critical” by 94% of those surveyed.
- Education: Likely reflecting challenges many workplaces experienced in the past year due to COVID-19-related school closures and accompanying childcare issues, education climbed the rankings to #4 this year, up one slot from 2020.
- Legislative Gridlock (State/Federal): Government’s inability to get things done continues to be a top concern among business leaders, jumping from #10 in 2019 to #4 in 2020 and #5 in 2021.
In line with the issues identified as most critical, business leaders remain particularly dissatisfied with local government’s performance when it comes to reducing homelessness (only 12.8% expressing they are satisfied), housing affordability (only 11.3% satisfied) and imposing reasonable fees and regulations (only 20.8% satisfied). Also registering very low satisfaction ratings were attracting new business, streamlining business permits, improving traffic and reducing crime. The only issue to score above a 50% positive was public safety and emergency response time.
About the BizFed Pulse Poll
This year’s survey marks the 13th year that Employers Group has partnered with BizFed to conduct its annual Pulse Poll, this year called “2021: Business Outlook and Re-Opening Survey.” The survey, which was conducted from April 12 to May 4, 2021 asks BizFed members, business owners and executives throughout Los Angeles County, a battery of questions to find out key issues and concerns they deem most critical to the ongoing operation and growth of their business. Access the full BizFed Pulse Poll here.
# # #
With more than 214 business organizations representing 450,000 employers with four million employees throughout LA County, BizFed is a massive, diverse grassroots alliance that advocates for policies and projects that strengthen our regional economy. As a united federation, business leaders in LA County are able to more efficiently collaborate and mobilize to advance a shared agenda on local, regional, state and national issues. BizFed members are force multipliers who mobilize and empower their communities to take action on policies and projects that affect our economy. To learn more visit www.bizfedlacounty.org
About Employers Group
Established in 1896, Employers Group is the leading source for intelligent business, HR solutions, and employer advocacy, helping thousands of employers across the country – and around the world. We understand human resources and helping you manage your people by mitigating risk, ensuring regulatory compliance, and minimizing costs – it’s OUR business. Employers Group is your connection to business solutions and performance. To learn more visit www.employersgroup.com