Critical data: 13,000 businesses speak up

Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber release results of business survey on the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

The Canadian Survey of 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,” said Trevin Stratton, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber. “Insights from more than 13,000 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 will provide critical information for governments as they develop and deliver their programs.”

“Today’s official release of the data collected from thousands of Canadian business owners represents the innovative and unprecedented solutions needed to address the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” added Anil Arora, Canada’s chief statistician. “The unique partnership and collaboration between our two organizations demonstrates what can be achieved when organizations work together to provide the insights needed to navigate the way forward. Through this collaboration we have advanced our collective ability to better understand the issues and challenges faced by Canadian businesses. Today’s results will provide an accurate picture of true impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Canadian economy and will enable the best decisions at public and private sector tables across the country.” 

Select findings examining the urgency of business stabilization include:

How much of a cash buffer did businesses have going into COVID-19

  • 2 per cent couldn’t operate longer than 60 days without a source of revenue
  • 1 per cent couldn’t operate longer than 90 days without a source of revenue

Extent to which businesses have experienced a decrease in demand

  • 9 per cent have experienced a medium to high drop in demand for services or products

Change in business revenue in Q1 2020 compared to Q1 2019

  • 5 per cent experienced an increase in revenue
  • 3 per cent saw no change in revenue
  • 9 per cent experienced a decrease in revenue of up to 20 per cent
  • 5 per cent experienced a decrease in revenue of over 20 per cent

Length of time businesses can remain partially or fully open amid social distancing measures

  • 5 per cent say no amount of time amid social distancing
  • 2 per cent say they could open for no longer than 3 months amid social distancing
  • 9 per cent say they could open between 3 and 6 months amid social distancing
  • Only 32.1 per cent say they could remain open longer than 6 months amid social distancing

Staffing decisions taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

  • 1 per cent have reduced staff hours or shifts
  • 5 per cent have laid off staff

“The data clearly shows clearly thousands of businesses are quickly approaching permanent closures,” stressed Stratton. “We are now six weeks into the shutdown, which is too late for many, but countless companies can still be saved if we move fast enough to help them. Policy measures like the wage subsidy and the Canada Emergency Business Account will certainly help many businesses, but we’re on the clock to get money into the hands of all businesses that need support.”

Select findings exploring the resiliency of Canadian businesses include:

  • 9 per cent of businesses have altered methods of production
  • 4 per cent of businesses have altered products or services offered
  • 4 per cent of businesses are using new methods to interact with customers
  • 5 per cent of businesses are testing working from home
  • 6 per cent of businesses are testing e-commerce
  • 6 per cent are trying new staff training
  • 3 per cent of businesses say they can return to a state of normal operations within one month of social distancing measures being removed

“Many businesses are proving resilient in adapting to the crisis by altering products, services and production methods,” continued Stratton. “The data shows a large increase in e-commerce, as well as many firms testing working at home practices. Most businesses can return to normal operations within one month of the removal of social distancing measures, which is promising, but the largest firms report a longer lag time of 1-3 months. Policy makers should keep these numbers in mind as they consider reopening and recovery measures.”

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 compiled 13,037 responses and was in market between April 4, 2020 and April 24, 2020.


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