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Businesses responding to the fourth statewide University of Wisconsin Oshkosh COVID-19 economic impact survey showed gains on several key indicators but expressed extreme caution in their business and personal travel plans.

“Among top-line impacts, the July survey showed significant growth over previous months, largely reflecting businesses operating in a fully open but constrained environment,” said Jeffrey Sachse, interim director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services.

Jeffrey Sachse

In July, responding businesses reported:

  • Inventory gains of $3.38 million
  • Income gains of $11.29 million
  • Wage and productivity gains of $4.18 million
  • Other financial impacts of $7.2 million

Firms also added 249 new staff members during the month.

“We started to see the early indications of economic recovery in June,” Sachse said. “The July survey results show both the scale and fragility of that recovery. While businesses are reporting growth, more than half of the businesses responding to the survey reported continued losses or no change.”

While firms are at their most optimistic regarding their long-term viability from at any point in the survey period, with more than half reporting survivability of seven months or more, there are ongoing areas of concern. 55% of respondents continued to apply for financial assistance last month, and 17% continued to expand their online profile.

For the first time since the surveys began in April, respondents were asked to share their perspectives on business and personal travel during the pandemic, with 65% of respondents eliminating all non-essential travel for the remainder of this year, and more than one-third already deciding to do the same in 2021. Personal travel also has decreased for 70% of respondents, confirming the losses observed across the state’s tourism industry.

Respondents also were asked to reassess their comfort with working from home. 43% of respondents reported some level of comfort with their business’s ability to return to work from home, if needed, with a quarter of businesses reported being extremely uncomfortable with such a return. This is a significant change from the first survey, in which most businesses reported less than 50% productivity in their remote workforce.

The August COVID-19 economic impact survey will be sent to responding businesses and partner organizations from Aug. 5 to 19. The survey is a partnership of UWO, the state’s nine Regional Development Organizations and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The July survey received a total of 615 responses and is reported with a margin of error of +/- 3%.

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