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Special Questions

Special Questions

February 22, 2021

For this month’s survey, Texas business executives were asked supplemental questions on the impacts of COVID-19. Results below include responses from participants of all three surveys: Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey, Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey and Texas Retail Outlook Survey.

Texas Business Outlook Surveys

Data were collected February 9–17, and 340 Texas business executives responded to the surveys.

1. How do your firm’s current revenues compare with a typical February? For example, if revenues are down 20 percent from normal, enter 80 percent. If revenues are up 20 percent, enter 120 percent.

  May '20
(percent)
Aug. '20
(percent)
Nov. '20
(percent)
Feb. '21
(percent)
Share of firms reporting reduced revenues 81.2 68.3 63.7 56.5
Average revenue decline (Y/Y) -38.3 -29.9 -28.7 -26.7
Share of firms reporting increased revenues 10.2 18.3 19.9 23.3
Average revenue increase (Y/Y) 20.1 17.6 17.7 15.8
Share of firms reporting no change in revenues 8.6 13.4 16.4 20.2

NOTES: 317 responses. In past months the question wording was adjusted to reference the respective month of comparison. Averages are calculated as trimmed means with the lowest and highest 7.5 percent of responses omitted. Average revenue decline is calculated using only responses from firms that reported reduced revenues. Average revenue increase is calculated using only responses from firms that reported increased revenues.

2. How does your firm’s current employee head count compare with February 2020 (pre-COVID)? For example, if head count is down 20 percent from February, enter 80 percent. If head count is up 20 percent, enter 120 percent. Please exclude any changes due to typical seasonality.

    Aug. '20
(percent)
Nov. '20
(percent)
Feb. '21
(percent)
Share of firms reporting reduced head count   51.4 51.1 47.3
Average head count decline (compared with Feb. 2020 levels)   -27.2 -28.4 -25.4
Share of firms reporting increased head count   15.4 13.2 21.0
Average head count increase (compared with Feb. 2020 levels)   21.0 15.2 10.8
Share of firms reporting no change in head count   33.2 35.7 31.7

NOTES: 315 responses. Averages are calculated as trimmed means with the lowest and highest 7.5 percent of responses omitted. Average head count decline is calculated using only responses from firms that reported reduced head count. Average head count increase is calculated using only responses from firms that reported increased head count.

3. Are you currently experiencing any supply chain disruptions/delays?

    Percent
Yes 35.5
No 64.5

NOTES: 324 responses.

3a. To what extent have supply chain disruptions adversely affected the following measures of your business?

  Increase
(percent)
No change
(percent)
Decrease
(percent)
Not
applicable
(percent)
Input prices/operating costs 70.8 25.7 0.0 3.5
Selling prices 43.8 46.4 6.3 3.6
Inventories 17.3 36.4 32.7 13.6
Unfilled/delayed orders 74.1 16.1 5.4 4.5
Production/revenue/sales 19.8 36.0 40.5 3.6

NOTES: 113 responses. This question only posed to those currently experiencing supply chain disruptions/delays.

4. What share of your employees are currently working remotely, and what share do you expect to work remotely after the pandemic ends?

    Average
(percent)
Current   35.2
Post-COVID-19   22.3

NOTE: 321 responses.

4a. If you have increased your share of employees working remotely since February 2020 (pre-COVID), how has this affected your firm’s productivity overall?

    Percent
Increased productivity 11.6
No change in productivity 50.9
Decreased productivity 33.0
Don’t know 4.5

NOTE: 224 responses.

Survey respondents were given the opportunity to provide comments. These comments can be found on the individual survey Special Questions results pages, accessible by the tabs above.

Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey

Data were collected February 9–17, and 95 Texas manufacturers responded to the survey.

1. How do your firm’s current revenues compare with a typical February? For example, if revenues are down 20 percent from normal, enter 80 percent. If revenues are up 20 percent, enter 120 percent.

  May '20
(percent)
Aug. '20
(percent)
Nov. '20
(percent)
Feb. '21
(percent)
Share of firms reporting reduced revenues 78.0 68.6 57.7 55.7
Average revenue decline (Y/Y) -38.6 -28.7 -30.7 -26.0
Share of firms reporting increased revenues 16.5 20.0 29.8 30.7
Average revenue increase (Y/Y) 19.1 24.6 19.3 17.7
Share of firms reporting no change in revenues 5.5 11.4 12.5 13.6

NOTES: 88 responses. In past months the question wording was adjusted to reference the respective month of comparison. Averages are calculated as trimmed means with the lowest and highest 7.5 percent of responses omitted. Average revenue decline is calculated using only responses from firms that reported reduced revenues. Average revenue increase is calculated using only responses from firms that reported increased revenues.

2. How does your firm’s current employee head count compare with February 2020 (pre-COVID)? For example, if head count is down 20 percent from February, enter 80 percent. If head count is up 20 percent, enter 120 percent. Please exclude any changes due to typical seasonality.

    Aug. '20
(percent)
Nov. '20
(percent)
Feb. '21
(percent)
Share of firms reporting reduced head count   47.6 49.0 47.7
Average head count decline (compared with Feb. 2020 levels)   -23.9 -24.5 -26.8
Share of firms reporting increased head count   21.9 17.3 25.0
Average head count increase (compared with Feb. 2020 levels)   17.1 22.0 15.1
Share of firms reporting no change in head count   30.5 33.7 27.3

NOTES: 88 responses. Averages are calculated as trimmed means with the lowest and highest 7.5 percent of responses omitted. Average head count decline is calculated using only responses from firms that reported reduced head count. Average head count increase is calculated using only responses from firms that reported increased head count.

3. Are you currently experiencing any supply chain disruptions/delays?

    Percent
Yes 61.8
No 38.2

NOTES: 89 responses.

3a. To what extent have supply chain disruptions adversely affected the following measures of your business?

  Increase
(percent)
No change
(percent)
Decrease
(percent)
Not
applicable
(percent)
Input prices/operating costs 79.6 14.8 0.0 5.6
Finished goods prices 47.2 47.2 1.9 3.8
Inventories 9.6 44.2 38.5 7.7
Unfilled/delayed orders 73.6 18.9 3.8 3.8
Production 28.8 34.6 32.7 3.8

NOTES: 54 responses. This question only posed to those currently experiencing supply chain disruptions/delays.

4. What share of your employees are currently working remotely, and what share do you expect to work remotely after the pandemic ends?

    Average
(percent)
Current   17.2
Post-COVID-19   10.0

NOTE: 90 responses.

4a. If you have increased your share of employees working remotely since February 2020 (pre-COVID), how has this affected your firm’s productivity overall?

    Percent
Increased productivity 1.7
No change in productivity 51.7
Decreased productivity 38.3
Don’t know 8.3

NOTE: 60 responses.

Special Questions Comments

These comments have been edited for publication.

Petroleum and Coal Product Manufacturing

  • Through January 2021, we had approximately 10 percent of our headquarters staff working from home. We have altered our office arrangements so that they are all back today. We observed a slight increase in individual productivity completely offset by a reduction in group effectiveness.

Chemical Manufacturing

  • Working remotely has led to less collaboration and strained communication.

Primary Metal Manufacturing

  • All production activity levels depend on our winter weather.
  • Remote work does not work as well as face-to-face interaction. We cannot move as quickly or as accurately from home as we can when everybody is at the same place. Deadlines are met and good decisions are made quickly when working face to face.

Fabricated Metal Manufacturing

  • Supply-chain disruptions stem from delays at ports for imported components.
  • Our sales staff express tension between family and remote schooling responsibilities and work requirements. Transactional sales and customer service work is getting processed, but development initiatives are lagging.
  • We have had 10 percent of employees have COVID-19. Currently, we have no quarantined or COVID-19 sick families or employees.

Machinery Manufacturing

  • We implemented a cloud-based file system and Microsoft Teams for meetings and collaboration as we entered the pandemic. The biggest benefit is maintaining efficiency and productivity when having to quarantine and work from home. We are experiencing that this week as the arctic blast is crippling Texas.
  • Since we have multiple salespeople handling the same companies, working remotely makes it more complicated to communicate what’s happening efficiently. We interact with engineers, managers, terminal technicians, etc., to win orders and quote jobs properly. We also coordinate jobs from all over the country within the company to ensure that supplies and equipment get to the proper locations when needed with managers of construction.
  • COVID-19 has little to zero impact on our operation.

Transportation Equipment Manufacturing

  • We are taking all precautions and still have weekly cases.

Printing and Related Support Activities

  • This is manufacturing. The only remote personnel are office employees. That is 20 percent of all employees. Only eight to 10 work remotely on a routine basis.
  • Through the end of last week, we are down 19 percent on volume of incoming orders year to date (fiscal year started Sept. 30). However, when we look at projected profitability, we are only down 13 percent year to date. This is most likely due to the mix of orders, although we did implement a very modest price increase at end of October. We feel certain this decline in incoming orders is 100 percent attributable to COVID-19-related issues.

Food Manufacturing

  • Some employees work remotely if there is even a hint of exposure to COVID-19. That is for 10–14 days.

Miscellaneous Manufacturing

  • We have all employees who could work remotely, work remotely during spikes in the county. It affected productivity and coordination significantly. We have required employees who came in contact with people suspected of being positive with COVID-19 or showing symptoms to take time off or work from home. Currently, we only have people working from home who have tested positive for COVID-19 or had a potential exposure.

Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey

Data were collected February 9–17, and 245 Texas business executives responded to the survey.

1. How do your firm’s current revenues compare with a typical February? For example, if revenues are down 20 percent from normal, enter 80 percent. If revenues are up 20 percent, enter 120 percent.

  May '20
(percent)
Aug. '20
(percent)
Nov. '20
(percent)
Feb. '21
(percent)
Share of firms reporting reduced revenues 82.5 68.2 66.0 56.8
Average revenue decline (Y/Y) -38.4 -30.5 -28.1 -27.3
Share of firms reporting increased revenues 7.7 17.7 16.0 20.5
Average revenue increase (Y/Y) 23.1 16.6 16.4 14.7
Share of firms reporting no change in revenues 9.9 14.1 17.9 22.7

NOTES: 229 responses. In past months the question wording was adjusted to reference the respective month of comparison. Averages are calculated as trimmed means with the lowest and highest 7.5 percent of responses omitted. Average revenue decline is calculated using only responses from firms that reported reduced revenues. Average revenue increase is calculated using only responses from firms that reported increased revenues.

2. How does your firm’s current employee head count compare with February 2020 (pre-COVID)? For example, if head count is down 20 percent from February, enter 80 percent. If head count is up 20 percent, enter 120 percent. Please exclude any changes due to typical seasonality.

    Aug. '20
(percent)
Nov. '20
(percent)
Feb. '21
(percent)
Share of firms reporting reduced head count   52.8 51.9 47.1
Average head count decline (compared with Feb. 2020 levels)   -28.8 -30.4 -24.9
Share of firms reporting increased head count   13.0 11.7 19.4
Average head count increase (compared with Feb. 2020 levels)   23.7 11.1 9.8
Share of firms reporting no change in head count   34.2 36.5 33.5

NOTES: 227 responses. Averages are calculated as trimmed means with the lowest and highest 7.5 percent of responses omitted. Average head count decline is calculated using only responses from firms that reported reduced head count. Average head count increase is calculated using only responses from firms that reported increased head count.

3. Are you currently experiencing any supply chain disruptions/delays?

    Percent
Yes 25.5
No 74.5

NOTES: 235 responses.

3a. To what extent have supply chain disruptions adversely affected the following measures of your business?

  Increase
(percent)
No change
(percent)
Decrease
(percent)
Not
applicable
(percent)
Input prices/operating costs 62.7 35.6 0.0 1.7
Selling prices 40.7 45.8 10.2 3.4
Inventories 24.1 29.3 27.6 19.0
Unfilled/delayed orders 74.6 13.6 6.8 5.1
Revenue/sales 11.9 37.3 47.5 3.4

NOTES: 59 responses. This question only posed to those currently experiencing supply chain disruptions/delays.

4. What share of your employees are currently working remotely, and what share do you expect to work remotely after the pandemic ends?

    Average
(percent)
Current   42.2
Post-COVID-19   27.0

NOTE: 231 responses.

4a. If you have increased your share of employees working remotely since February 2020 (pre-COVID), how has this affected your firm’s productivity overall?

    Percent
Increased productivity 15.2
No change in productivity 50.6
Decreased productivity 31.1
Don’t know 3.0

NOTE: 164 responses.

Special Questions Comments

These comments have been edited for publication.

Truck Transportation

  • We're a truck and trailer repair service, and there is no way to remotely fix equipment.

Support Activities for Transportation

  • With the weather impacts, these questions are very hard to answer given the unusual nature of what is occurring.  

Warehousing and Storage

  • We transitioned seamlessly to a work-from-home model during the pandemic. We continue to believe, however, that once the pandemic recedes somewhat that we will return to an in-person organization model.

Publishing Industries (Except Internet)

  • Productivity has declined very modestly working remotely but so far is not a significant factor. The productivity effect is probably offset by reduced office space total costs.

Broadcasting (Except Internet)

  • Income for the second half of January weakened, and that reduction has held for the first week of February; however, the sales prospects are looking better for the second half of February, so we hope those sales hold to get income back to expectations for the month. We converted two full-time positions to two part-time positions in February and don't expect those full-time positions to return this year.

Data Processing, Hosting and Related Services

  • It is a bit difficult to manage some employees remotely. We just have to spend more time managing.

Credit Intermediation and Related Activities

  • The company has expanded the ability and flexibility of employees to work remotely. The number of employees that are working remotely varies with the number of COVID cases in the specific market areas and the number of employees infected, exposed and quarantined.
  • The only thing that has really changed in the way we work is that the trend toward more use of electronic media, Zoom meetings and the like has accelerated greatly, and today we are probably in a place we would have been anyway in three years.

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities

  • Productivity has increased since February 2020, but we are not sure if the increased productivity is sustainable once we enter a post-COVID environment when some are in the office and some are remote. 

Real Estate

  • Cold weather has affected everything. San Antonio is not used to this crazy weather.

Rental and Leasing Services

  • I'm in month 11 of losing money. The reduction average is a 75 percent loss of revenue.

Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

  • We are still working on our plan to allow our employees the opportunity to work remotely post-COVID-19. We are struggling with the thought of losing the team atmosphere that we have built over the years and how we are going to replace the training that goes on in our office every day.
  • We grew the number of lawyers, but hours per lawyer and total hours went down. Rates increased, and that is why revenue has increased.
  • A huge level of uncertainty and inaction exists. People are waiting to see what happens. This causes great inactivity in our profession.
  • Expense are down, productivity stable, and profits are up.
  • We lost 10 to 15 percent productivity due to COVID-19 and remote work.
  • As an independent consultant, I expect to continue to work most of my time remotely, even post-COVID.  Pre-COVID, I generally tried to work 50 percent remotely. I think we have become less worried about "watching" remote workers and are focusing on getting the job done.

Administrative and Support Services

  • We were working remotely pre-COVID. 
  • We have the same number of people working 100 percent remotely [now] as before the pandemic. We have allowed all staff to work two days/week remotely since coming back from lockdown. This has been a great morale boost with no degradation in productivity.
  • During the height of COVID during the spring and summer of 2020, 100 percent of our people worked remotely. The productivity drop was substantial, not intentionally, as we have very good long-term employees. The distractions at home are hard to control for even the best intentioned. We began returning to the office early by letting the employees build the environment they felt safe in and have been back 100 percent except for special cases.
  • For our business, 2020 revenues were down 10+ percent. We did not lay anyone off, reduce salaries or furlough anyone in 2020. Nonsalary personnel expenses (training, professional development, client entertainment, etc.) were down 50+ percent. We also reduced or eliminated many nonessential expenses in response to revenue reduction. The result being the 2020 net profit and EBITDA [Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization] ended up being better than in 2019, which was our best year on record.
  • We have experienced significant production reductions from mandatory quarantines.
  • Some employees are more productive working remotely, and some are less productive. It varies based on their technology access (staff in rural communities have unreliable and slower internet), their home environment (some are managing young children and/or assisting with online learning, some lack space for a home office setup), their need to access other equipment/resources and their ability to compartmentalize work and home life.

Educational Services

  • We found that remote work decreased collaboration and speed of business. We have asked all employees who could to return to work. We are more flexible than before.
  • We are working remotely and working from the office as conditions allow. 

Ambulatory Health Care Services

  • We have not made any cuts in employees, hoping that revenues return, but the day of reckoning may be approaching.

Social Assistance

  • Increased productivity of remote work is due to increase demand for jobs; so our services increased substantially. There also are efficiencies derived from increased technology, such as growing the number of offerings and services that are produced and provided virtually.

Accommodation

  • We are a hotel with two restaurants and normally busy banquet activity. As such, the vast majority of associates are in customer contact positions. There are very few associates in direct sales and some administrative positions that can do their jobs remotely.

Personal and Laundry Services

  • My biggest issue is trying to find qualified employees to hire. There are not enough applicants. For every five interviews scheduled, only one person will attend. Applicants are looking for more money than what I have typically paid, so now I am offering hiring bonuses. I still cannot find enough employees.

Texas Retail Outlook Survey

Data were collected February 9–17, and 46 Texas retailers responded to the survey.

1. How do your firm’s current revenues compare with a typical February? For example, if revenues are down 20 percent from normal, enter 80 percent. If revenues are up 20 percent, enter 120 percent.

  May '20
(percent)
Aug. '20
(percent)
Nov. '20
(percent)
Feb. '21
(percent)
Share of firms reporting reduced revenues 90.7 67.9 66.7 59.5
Average revenue decline (Y/Y) -35.0 -25.6 -23.1 -26.3
Share of firms reporting increased revenues 1.9 18.9 20.8 21.4
Average revenue increase (Y/Y) 20.0 21.8 30.3 18.8
Share of firms reporting no change in revenues 7.4 13.2 12.5 19.0

NOTES: 42 responses. In past months the question wording was adjusted to reference the respective month of comparison. Averages are calculated as trimmed means with the lowest and highest 7.5 percent of responses omitted. Average revenue decline is calculated using only responses from firms that reported reduced revenues. Average revenue increase is calculated using only responses from firms that reported increased revenues.

2. How does your firm’s current employee head count compare with February 2020 (pre-COVID)? For example, if head count is down 20 percent from February, enter 80 percent. If head count is up 20 percent, enter 120 percent. Please exclude any changes due to typical seasonality.

    Aug. '20
(percent)
Nov. '20
(percent)
Feb. '21
(percent)
Share of firms reporting reduced head count   45.3 46.9 37.2
Average head count decline (compared with Feb. 2020 levels)   -27.0 -25.6 -30.0
Share of firms reporting increased head count   13.2 12.2 20.9
Average head count increase (compared with Feb. 2020 levels)   20.0 8.7 6.2
Share of firms reporting no change in head count   41.5 40.8 41.9

NOTES: 43 responses. Averages are calculated as trimmed means with the lowest and highest 7.5 percent of responses omitted. Average head count decline is calculated using only responses from firms that reported reduced head count. Average head count increase is calculated using only responses from firms that reported increased head count.

3. Are you currently experiencing any supply chain disruptions/delays?

    Percent
Yes 64.4
No 35.6

NOTES: 45 responses.

3a. To what extent have supply chain disruptions adversely affected the following measures of your business?

  Increase
(percent)
No change
(percent)
Decrease
(percent)
Not
applicable
(percent)
Input prices/operating costs 62.1 37.9 0.0 0.0
Selling prices 58.6 37.9 3.4 0.0
Inventories 31.0 13.8 41.4 13.8
Unfilled/delayed orders 82.8 10.3 6.9 0.0
Sales 20.7 34.5 44.8 0.0

NOTES: 29 responses. This question only posed to those currently experiencing supply chain disruptions/delays.

4. What share of your employees are currently working remotely, and what share do you expect to work remotely after the pandemic ends?

    Average
(percent)
Current   28.4
Post-COVID-19   22.1

NOTE: 43 responses.

4a. If you have increased your share of employees working remotely since February 2020 (pre-COVID), how has this affected your firm’s productivity overall?

    Percent
Increased productivity 10.0
No change in productivity 55.0
Decreased productivity 35.0
Don’t know 0.0

NOTE: 20 responses.

Special Questions Comments

These comments have been edited for publication.

Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods

  • The biggest change in productivity is the ability of the sales force to visit customers in person and develop relationships.

Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods

  • We will not need as large an office space moving forward. 
  • Fortunately, we already had a remote-work option in place pre-COVID. Our productivity has remained steady over the last 12 months, but a greater percentage of employees’ time has been remote versus in-office. We still find great value working together in the office, so we expect the remote hours to come down over time.

General Merchandise Stores

  • We have seen small decreases in productivity from office workers.

Miscellaneous Store Retailers

  • We are an event-driven business, and there are no events.

Questions regarding the Texas Business Outlook Surveys can be addressed to Emily Kerr at emily.kerr@dal.frb.org.

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