RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly 90 percent of North Carolina’s small businesses that responded to a survey are open — one of the highest rates in the nation.
The latest Global State of Small Business survey by Meta, the company that runs Facebook, paints a mostly optimistic picture of how the state’s small and medium-sized businesses are dealing with both the shift into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation that has climbed to record levels.
“On the whole, North Carolina businesses are doing pretty well,” said Diana Doukas, the U.S. Policy Programs Manager for Economic Impact at Meta and the former director of the White House Business Council under President Barack Obama.
Meta surveyed a minimum of 104 small and medium businesses — defined by the tech giant as having 250 or fewer employees — across the state in July. The company typically has conducted those surveys twice a year, in January and July, and has released the results in the spring and fall.
“Businesses are still starting to rebound from the initial phases of the COVID pandemic, but of course, especially in the U.S., inflation is hitting small businesses pretty hard, and it’s definitely something that they are anxious about,” Doukas said.
The most eye-grabbing number: 89 percent of those small businesses were reported open, the second-highest rate in the country. Only Virginia, where the rate was 90 percent, was better.
That rate was at 84 percent in January 2021 and climbed to 88 percent that July before it dipped to 82 percent in January, prompting Doukas to note “definitely an increase that we’ve seen over the last couple of iterations of this report.”
Only 7 percent of responding businesses said they had cut workers in the past six months, after 24 percent of them said in January that they had done so.
But the results weren’t entirely positive: More than a third of them said they expect challenges related to customer demand in the next few months.
And another key number can be interpreted a couple of different ways.
Only 21 percent said they expect to generate more than half of their annual revenues between the holiday shopping season that runs from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
“Traditionally, as a lot of the small businesses will report, the holiday season is really where they make the bulk of their revenue for the year,” Doukas said.
But those numbers in our state can actually be a positive, she said, because it means those businesses are making more money during the other nine months of the year.
But there is the question of whether there are enough businesses taking the survey for the results to be trustworthy.
A total of 682 of them were surveyed in January and February 2021. That number slipped to 227 in July 2021, and fell even further in January 2022 to 174.
Yet even with a relatively small sample size, Doukas says she remains confident those results are valid.
“The folks who are participating … the sample size runs the gamut of the type of business that you’re looking at,” Doukas said. “And so we do think that this is a strong-enough sample to really be a good indicator of what North Carolina is facing.”