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The Impact of COVID-19 on US Firms

SIEPR
Jan 2021
Working Paper
21-031
By  Nicholas Bloom, Robert S. Fletcher, Ethan Yeh

We use survey data on an opt-in panel of around 2,500 US small businesses to assess the impact of COVID-19. We find a significant negative sales impact that peaked in Quarter 2 of 2020, with an average loss of 29% in sales. The large negative impact masks significant heterogeneity, with over 40% of firms reporting zero or a positive impact, while almost a quarter report losses of more than 50%. These impacts also appear to be persistent, with firms reporting the largest sales drops in mid-2020 still forecasting large sales losses a year later in mid-2021. In terms of business types, we find that the smallest offline firms experienced sales drops of over 40% compared to less than 10% for the largest online firms. Finally, in terms of owners, we find female and black owners reported significantly larger drops in sales. Owners with a humanities degree also experienced far larger losses, while those with a STEM degree saw the least impact.