BC Chamber Survey Shows Strong Optimism from Businesses, Workforce Support Next Hurdle

Key Issue/s

The recent, and final, COVID-19 Pulse Check survey conducted by the BC Chamber of Commerce revealed that businesses are hopeful about the future with 60 percent of respondents saying they are optimistic or very optimistic about the next 12 months. However, while BC’s Restart Plan is well underway with COVID-19 restrictions easing, businesses continue to feel the impact of the pandemic and need support to navigate the current environment, in particular, seeking help to access a pool of skilled workers from which to hire and train.

23 percent of the businesses surveyed report that they are in poor or very poor shape, down from 36 percent since the previous Pulse Check survey in April 2021, a clear signal that operating conditions are beginning to improve. 6 percent (down from 15 percent) of respondents report that they expect to operate for less than three months given current restrictions, support measures and operating costs. Businesses also report that 62 percent of employees are already back in the workplace, with 11 percent working both remotely and in the workplace (a hybrid model), and 21 percent continuing to work remotely.

Of the 680 businesses that responded to the survey, 59 percent (up from 41 percent in April 2021) report that access to labour continues to be a challenge. Approximately seven out of ten businesses (69 percent) report using at least one form of government support, highlighting the need for supports to continue as businesses navigate through and beyond the pandemic.

The BC Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 Pulse Check 7 survey ran from July 5 to 16, 2021, and was the seventh in a series of pulse check surveys using the BCMindReader.com platform, designed to assess the impact of COVID-19 on businesses across the province.

Key Findings – Business metrics

In the context of the 680 survey respondents:

  • 23% (down from 36%) report that they are in poor or very poor shape.
  • 60% (up from 39%) are optimistic or very optimistic about the next 12 months.
  • 2% (down from 6%) report that they have closed or that their revenue has fallen by 100%. 28% (up from 10%) have seen an increase in revenues.
  • 6% (down from 15%) report that they expect to operate for less than 3 months given current restrictions, support measures and operating costs. 78% expect to operate 3 months or more.
  • Impacts on businesses from the pandemic are similar to those reported in previous pulse checks. The most common impacts continue to be decreased sales volume, reported by 62% (down from 72%) of businesses, with 19% (down from 41%) of businesses reporting that their revenues have decreased by over 25% since mid-June 2021.
  • 54% (unchanged since April 2021) report increased operating costs, likely due to costs associated with re-opening.
  • 37% (unchanged since April 2021) introduced or increased online, digital or e-commerce operations.

Key Findings – Re-hiring the Workforce

In the context of the 680 survey respondents:

  • 44% expect their workforce levels to increase in the next 6 months.
  • 40% have already re-hired their workforce, with 23% planning to re-hire staff within the next 6 months.
  • Businesses report that, currently, staff are working in the following ways:
    • 21% remotely (down from 28%)
    • 62% in the workplace (up from 37%)
    • 11% both remotely and in the workplace (hybrid)
  • Post-pandemic, businesses anticipate staff will work in the following ways:
    • 16% remotely
    • 66% in the workplace
    • 14% both remotely and in the workplace (hybrid)

Key Findings – Government Recovery Plan and Support

In the context of the 680 survey respondents:

  • 69% (unchanged since April 2021) are using some form of government support program. The most useful programs continue to be the CEWS program (44%), followed by CEBA (38%), and CERA (22%).
  • Businesses note that government support programs would be most helpful if they provided:
    • More support for wages (41%), up from 33%.
    • Greater tax relief (40%), unchanged since April 2021.
    • More or more effective cash flow relief (21%), down from 29%.

Key Findings – Long Term Impact of the Pandemic

In the context of the 680 survey respondents:

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, businesses report that the following areas have become more expensive or difficult to navigate:
    • Cost of doing business = 66% (down from 67%)
    • Access to labour = 59% (up from 41%)
    • Cost of labour = 57% (up from 40%)
    • Availability of workers = 55% (up from 40%)
    • Skill of the labour pool available = 42% (up from 32%)

Key Findings – Vaccination Program

In the context of the 680 survey respondents:

  • 74% of survey respondents have already been vaccinated, and 18% plan to be vaccinated.
  • 14% of businesses report that they are interested in implementing COVID-19 Rapid Testing at their workplace – 52% are not, and 24% want more information before making a decision.

What are next steps?

The COVID-19 Pulse Check survey results show positive signs towards business recovery. However, they also confirm that businesses critically need assistance to navigate British Columbia’s challenging labour market.

In recognition of businesses’ continued and evolving needs, the BC Chamber of Commerce has recently launched seven regional Resource Guides for Small Business Resiliency. In partnership with the provincial government’s Sector Labour Market Partnership Program (SLMP) and funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, the Resource Guides for Small Business Resiliency are a tool to help businesses respond to COVID-19 related workforce, workplace and operational challenges.

“It is clear that businesses are beginning to see light at the end of a very long and challenging period.” said Fiona Famulak, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “However, it is also clear that they need continued support to navigate through the final phases of BC’s Restart Plan. While we will continue to advocate to ensure that the necessary supports are in place, as important will be our collective efforts in the coming weeks to secure our second dose of vaccine, and to be patient with one another as we all adjust and businesses transition to communicable disease prevention.”