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Business Response Survey to the Coronavirus Pandemic

BRS Overview

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed new data on how U.S. businesses changed their operations and employment since the onset of the novel coronavirus through September 2020. This information, in combination with data collected by other current BLS surveys, will aid in understanding how businesses responded during the pandemic. Other BLS statistics collected and published during the pandemic provide indications of changes in employment, wages, job openings and terminations, employer-provided benefits, and safety and health. The new data provides additional insights by asking employers directly what they experienced as a result of the pandemic and how they responded.

These estimates have been produced at the national and state-level, and at the industry sector level, and at size level. This will help assess state and industry differences in business situations and changes.

This survey asked a series of questions to understand changes businesses have made during the Coronavirus pandemic. The survey starts by asking a key question that gives context to understanding the economic circumstances the business currently faces. The answers to this question help in framing their answers to the remaining questions about the actions the establishment is taking in responding to the pandemic environment. This question is not asked in other BLS surveys, giving the question critical value, particularly when viewed in conjunction with other BLS data products.

The answers to the next question give information about the payroll decisions that the establishment is making, which directly informs many of the key insights we need to know to understand the labor market. Again, without this type of information, data users and policy makers would have to make assumptions that changes in payroll were a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. By asking respondents directly what changes they made due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we are relying on information provided directly from establishment respondents who know better than anyone about their situations and decisions.

The remaining questions are all relevant to key issues about the pandemic: are employees continuing to be paid despite not working, is the employer maintaining payments for health insurance coverage (important to know in the context of any pandemic when employees have tenuous job security), are the employees at the establishment teleworking more (given many stay-at-home orders, knowing who can and cannot work from home is key to understanding the short-, medium-,and long-term effects of the Coronavirus pandemic), and whether the establishment was able to secure government funding (helps inform take-up rate and what economic conditions make an establishment more likely to seek out a loan).