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Special Questions

Special Questions

August 30, 2021

For this month’s survey, Texas business executives were asked supplemental questions on the labor market, revenue restraints, and the resurgence of the pandemic. 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 August 17–25, and 363 Texas business executives responded to the surveys.

1. Are you currently trying to hire or recall workers?

Apr. '21
(percent)
Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 60.1 60.3 68.7 69.0
No 39.9 39.7 31.3 31.0

NOTE: 358 responses.

1a. Are there any impediments to hiring or recalling workers? Please select all that apply.

Apr. '21
(percent)
Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Lack of available applicants/no applicants 66.7 70.4 75.9 74.3
Workers looking for more pay than is offered 33.8 42.5 40.8 47.3
Lack of technical competencies (hard skills) 41.2 37.2 35.1 38.0
Lack of workplace competencies (soft skills) 26.9 27.0 25.7 31.0
Lack of experience 38.4 30.1 32.2 29.4
Generous unemployment benefits 47.7 47.3 39.6 29.0
Inability to pass drug test and/or background check 19.9 21.7 22.9 22.4
Fear of COVID-19 infection 8.3 8.4 6.5 21.2
Lack of child care 11.6 13.3 11.4 12.7
Other 10.6 6.2 7.8 6.1
None 9.7 5.3 0.0 6.1

NOTES: 245 responses. This question was only posed to those currently trying to hire or recall workers.

1b. How has the availability of applicants changed over the past month?

Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Improved significantly 0.0 0.5 2.2
Improved slightly 17.0 24.9 22.1
No change 47.8 47.6 46.4
Worsened slightly 20.1 16.8 23.2
Worsened significantly 15.1 10.3 6.1

NOTES: 181 responses. This question was only posed to those noting a lack of available applicants/no applicants.

2. Are you currently trying to fill low-skill positions (roles typically requiring a high school diploma or less and minimal work experience)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 50.9 50.3
No 49.1 49.7

NOTE: 356 responses.

2a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 2.1 1.7
Somewhat difficult 29.6 42.5
Very difficult 68.3 55.9

NOTES: 179 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill low-skill postions.

3. Are you currently trying to fill mid-skill positions (roles typically requiring some college or technical training)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 55.4 61.3
No 44.6 38.7

NOTE: 354 responses.

3a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 6.7 4.2
Somewhat difficult 44.7 49.1
Very difficult 48.6 46.7

NOTES: 214 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill mid-skill postions.

4. Are you currently trying to fill high-skill positions (roles typically requiring a college degree or higher)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 45.2 47.4
No 54.8 52.6

NOTE: 359 responses.

4a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 20.1 15.9
Somewhat difficult 45.6 38.8
Very difficult 34.3 45.3

NOTES: 170 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill high-skill postions.

5. What are the primary factors restraining your firm’s revenues, if any? Please select up to three.

Jul. '20
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Supply-chain disruptions 16.9 40.8
Limited operating capacity due to staffing shortages (COVID-19 infections and quarantining, absenteeism, difficulty hiring, etc.) 21.4 31.8
Weak demand 57.3 23.9
Reduced productivity due to alternative work arrangements 14.8 9.0
Limited operating capacity due to state/local restrictions 20.6 5.4
Other 16.1 13.5
None/not applicable 12.4 21.1

NOTE: 355 responses.

6. Has your firm taken any of the following steps in response to the recent rise in COVID-19 infections in Texas? Please select all that apply.

Jul. '20
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Required on-site employees to wear face coverings N/A 51.0
Required on-site customers to wear face coverings N/A 33.8
Increased spending on health and safety equipment at facility 62.1 30.0
Postponed efforts to bring telecommuting workers back on-site 37.4 19.8
Decreased number of employees working on-site 46.1 19.5
Reduced customer capacity at business location(s) 26.3 12.5
Required occasional testing for COVID-19 among on-site employees N/A 12.2
Required on-site employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 N/A 9.0
Partially shut down business operations temporarily 24.7 5.8
Postponed plans for recalling furloughed workers or new hiring 13.7 2.6
Partially shut down business operations permanently 2.3 1.2
Laid off or furloughed workers 13.4 0.9
Fully shut down business operations temporarily 3.1 0.3
Fully shut down business operations permanently 0.5 0.3
Other N/A 11.7
None 12.4 21.3

NOTES: 343 responses. Some new response choices were added in Aug. '21 and show as not applicable (N/A) in the July '20 column.

7. How has this recent surge in COVID-19 cases affected your business differently than prior surges, and how has your response differed (if at all)?

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 August 17–25, and 92 Texas manufacturers responded to the survey.

1. Are you currently trying to hire or recall workers?

Apr. '21
(percent)
Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 70.7 69.3 80.2 75.6
No 29.3 30.7 19.8 24.4

NOTE: 90 responses.

1a. Are there any impediments to hiring or recalling workers? Please select all that apply.

Apr. '21
(percent)
Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Lack of available applicants/no applicants 75.7 77.1 84.4 80.9
Workers looking for more pay than is offered 32.9 47.1 44.2 61.8
Lack of technical competencies (hard skills) 51.4 42.9 40.3 51.5
Lack of workplace competencies (soft skills) 32.9 30.0 24.7 41.2
Generous unemployment benefits 60.0 55.7 51.9 38.2
Lack of experience 42.9 35.7 37.7 38.2
Inability to pass drug test and/or background check 30.0 28.6 29.9 30.9
Lack of child care 8.6 11.4 9.1 5.9
Fear of COVID-19 infection 2.9 4.3 3.9 4.4
Other 10.0 5.7 5.2 4.4
None 4.3 1.4 0.0 1.5

NOTES: 68 responses. This question was only posed to those currently trying to hire or recall workers.

1b. How has the availability of applicants changed over the past month?

Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Improved significantly 0.0 1.5 1.8
Improved slightly 13.0 20.0 23.6
No change 44.4 50.8 43.6
Worsened slightly 24.1 15.4 27.3
Worsened significantly 18.5 12.3 3.6

NOTES: 55 responses. This question was only posed to those noting a lack of available applicants/no applicants.

2. Are you currently trying to fill low-skill positions (roles typically requiring a high school diploma or less and minimal work experience)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 64.3 67.0
No 35.7 33.0

NOTE: 88 responses.

2a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 1.6 0.0
Somewhat difficult 29.5 28.8
Very difficult 68.9 71.2

NOTES: 59 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill low-skill postions.

3. Are you currently trying to fill mid-skill positions (roles typically requiring some college or technical training)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 69.4 65.6
No 30.6 34.4

NOTE: 90 responses.

3a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 8.8 3.4
Somewhat difficult 44.1 36.2
Very difficult 47.1 60.3

NOTES: 58 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill mid-skill postions.

4. Are you currently trying to fill high-skill positions (roles typically requiring a college degree or higher)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 50.0 51.1
No 50.0 48.9

NOTE: 90 responses.

4a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 22.4 19.6
Somewhat difficult 44.9 32.6
Very difficult 32.7 47.8

NOTES: 46 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill high-skill postions.

5. What are the primary factors restraining your firm’s revenues, if any? Please select up to three.

Jul. '20
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Supply-chain disruptions 25.2 72.2
Limited operating capacity due to staffing shortages (COVID-19 infections and quarantining, absenteeism, difficulty hiring, etc.) 31.1 44.4
Weak demand 65.0 21.1
Reduced productivity due to alternative work arrangements 10.7 8.9
Limited operating capacity due to state/local restrictions 3.9 2.2
Other 8.7 11.1
None/not applicable 10.7 7.8

NOTE: 90 responses.

6. Has your firm taken any of the following steps in response to the recent rise in COVID-19 infections in Texas? Please select all that apply.

Jul. '20
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Required on-site employees to wear face coverings N/A 49.4
Required on-site customers to wear face coverings N/A 41.4
Increased spending on health and safety equipment at facility 71.4 35.6
Postponed efforts to bring telecommuting workers back on-site 40.0 19.5
Required occasional testing for COVID-19 among on-site employees N/A 13.8
Reduced customer capacity at business location(s) 16.2 10.3
Decreased number of employees working on-site 38.1 10.3
Required on-site employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 N/A 4.6
Partially shut down business operations temporarily 23.8 4.6
Postponed plans for recalling furloughed workers or new hiring 12.4 1.1
Laid off or furloughed workers 11.4 1.1
Fully shut down business operations temporarily 0.0 0.0
Partially shut down business operations permanently 1.0 0.0
Fully shut down business operations permanently 0.0 0.0
Other N/A 13.8
None 12.4 20.7

NOTES: 87 responses. Some new response choices were added in Aug. '21 and show as not applicable (N/A) in the July '20 column.

7. How has this recent surge in COVID-19 cases affected your business differently than prior surges, and how has your response differed (if at all)?

These comments are from respondents’ completed surveys and have been edited for publication.

Food Manufacturing    

  • Same as before.
  • We are not affected other than taking extra precautions as suggested by local/state/federal health guidelines.
  • Nothing materially yet. We no longer allow any nonemployee groups into our facility, and individuals must have their temperature taken and complete a health questionnaire.

Wood Product Manufacturing  

  • No change.
  • None.

Paper Manufacturing

  • Not at this time.
  • No.

Printing and Related Support Activities

  • COVID callouts make on-time delivery difficult.
  • No difference.
  • We have yet to see any direct impact from the Delta variant, but one of our business segments is heavily tied to conventions and events, and we are closely monitoring restrictions/changes. We have only slightly modified our COVID policies but have not required masks in the facilities.
  • So far it has not impacted us at this time. Hopefully it will remain that way.

Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing

  • We’re seeing a stalling demand recovery and lower margins.
  • No.

Chemical Manufacturing

  • There’s no change in the return-to-work posture for September.
  • The surge seems to be more rapid and broadly more infectious/impactful.
  • None.

Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing     

  • The only impact we’ve seen is with the number of employees going out for quarantine. Other than that, we have not had to alter our operations.

Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing

  • Face coverings are required for the unvaccinated.
  • No changes.
  • It has had a demoralizing effect on employees; people want to return to “normal.”
  • None.
  • No change.

Primary Metal Manufacturing

  • We are experiencing higher COVID positive rates than the previous spikes. All employees are required to wear face masks to help mitigate spread. We are also highly encouraging employees to be vaccinated.
  • We are trying to keep all safe, require employees to wear masks on-site and ask them to get vaccinated.
  • Not really.
  • Minimal.

Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing

  • No change in response because we had not dropped our on-site mask requirement prior to the new surge.
  • Helping to get more employees willing to get vaccinated.
  • About the same response as before.
  • No difference.
  • We are having more people test positive because of mask mandates being lifted, causing more absenteeism.
  • It has increased uncertainty in starting new customer projects due to fear and uncertainty that worksites will be shut down because of employees and contractors having too many variant COVID cases.
  • It’s similar to in the past.
  • None.
  • No effect.

Machinery Manufacturing        

  • It’s not much different than before the recent surge, as we were operating at full capacity as an essential business.
  • We’ve had a few out sick with COVID.
  • We’ve partitioned our business internally and restricted movement during the day between operations.
  • No changes.

Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing

  • None.
  • We did not get the recovery in our systems sales business in the second half of the year as expected.
  • We have had a few COVID-related absences but still quite few overall. Many of our folks have been vaccinated, and about one-half to two-thirds of them still wear masks. We maintain social distancing in production whenever possible and in the break areas.
  • We now require vaccination as condition for employment.

Transportation Equipment Manufacturing

  • No change.
  • We are seeing increased absenteeism as in prior surges, but we are not responding any differently, as we already had stringent protocols in place.
  • It seems that the uncertainty regarding the spread of COVID-19 variants has created a politicized push-back against any cautionary steps that business takes. We accept that certain persons are somehow convinced that politics supersedes scientific evidence; however, we do not want to chance employee illness. Consequently, we respectfully refuse to permit persons who do not want to wear masks and/or have symptoms that might indicate COVID infection, such as constant coughing, to enter our premises.
  • We have not yet reimplemented 2020 workplace protocols.
  • It’s similar to the original outbreak in 2020.

Furniture and Related Product Manufacturing

  • No impact.
  • No change.

Miscellaneous Manufacturing

  • We reimplemented stricter COVID procedures and limited nonessential visitors. Employees are staying home with any cold/illness; this takes away from capacity.

Special Questions Comments

These comments have been edited for publication.

Chemical Manufacturing

  • We returned to a schedule that limits the number of personnel on-site. As a result, there is less productivity.

Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing     

  • We continue to struggle to hire on new employees. The struggle is worsened when we do manage to find someone and submit an offer to them, only for them to accept it but never show up. Additionally, we’re in a wage war with other businesses in our town. Since the pandemic began, we’ve increased wages twice. The first increase was in direct response to an increase from another local business. The second increase was to try and coax people to apply. After our second increase, other businesses went up to match us. Wages increasing like this is not sustainable. At some point, it will begin to impact normal operations and costs, and ultimately, pricing to customers.

Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing

  • Lack of workers has forced us to suspend production and reduce output at several plants.

Fabricated Metal Manufacturing

  • More national trade shows are starting to come back [but] with a great amount of uncertainty as to regulations and success in gaining attendance. Many are being cancelled.
  • We would prefer that the state mandate vaccinations and mask wearing until the virus is under control. This would make it so much easier for us to keep our employees and their families healthy, thereby increasing our productivity.

Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing

  • Supply-chain disruptions and rising labor and material costs are still the biggest constraints. Everything takes longer (more verification required due to delays) and everything is harder (more tasks to complete and more schedule changes from delays). To maintain production, more inventory is required also. Rising costs and inventory are more straining on cash. When the supply chain can stabilize and become more predictable, the investment in inventory should ease and hopefully costs will stabilize, and we can reset to the new levels. In the meantime, it's a significant challenge to keep all the balls in the air.
  • We ask all visitors and employees to have their temperature checked prior to entering the facility, and we ask those who aren’t vaccinated to wear masks.

Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey

Data were collected August 17–25, and 271 Texas business executives responded to the survey.

1. Are you currently trying to hire or recall workers?

Apr. '21
(percent)
Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 56.1 57.0 64.5 66.8
No 43.9 43.0 35.5 33.2

NOTE: 268 responses.

1a. Are there any impediments to hiring or recalling workers? Please select all that apply.

Apr. '21
(percent)
Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Lack of available applicants/no applicants 62.3 67.3 72.0 71.8
Workers looking for more pay than is offered 34.2 40.4 39.3 41.8
Lack of technical competencies (hard skills) 36.3 34.6 32.7 32.8
Fear of COVID-19 infection 11.0 10.3 7.7 27.7
Lack of workplace competencies (soft skills) 24.0 25.6 26.2 27.1
Lack of experience 36.3 27.6 29.8 26.0
Generous unemployment benefits 41.8 43.6 33.9 25.4
Inability to pass drug test and/or background check 15.1 18.6 19.6 19.2
Lack of child care 13.0 14.1 12.5 15.3
Other 11.0 6.4 8.9 6.8
None 12.3 7.1 0.0 7.9

NOTES: 177 responses. This question was only posed to those currently trying to hire or recall workers.

1b. How has the availability of applicants changed over the past month?

Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Improved significantly 0.0 0.0 2.4
Improved slightly 19.0 27.5 21.4
No change 49.5 45.8 47.6
Worsened slightly 18.1 17.5 21.4
Worsened significantly 13.3 9.2 7.1

NOTES: 126 responses. This question was only posed to those noting a lack of available applicants/no applicants.

2. Are you currently trying to fill low-skill positions (roles typically requiring a high school diploma or less and minimal work experience)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 46.3 44.8
No 53.7 55.2

NOTE: 268 responses.

2a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 2.3 2.5
Somewhat difficult 29.7 49.2
Very difficult 68.0 48.3

NOTES: 120 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill low-skill postions.

3. Are you currently trying to fill mid-skill positions (roles typically requiring some college or technical training)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 50.5 59.8
No 49.5 40.2

NOTE: 264 responses.

3a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 5.7 4.5
Somewhat difficult 45.0 53.8
Very difficult 49.3 41.7

NOTES: 156 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill mid-skill postions.

4. Are you currently trying to fill high-skill positions (roles typically requiring a college degree or higher)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 43.5 46.1
No 56.5 53.9

NOTE: 269 responses.

4a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 19.2 14.5
Somewhat difficult 45.8 41.1
Very difficult 35.0 44.4

NOTES: 124 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill high-skill postions.

5. What are the primary factors restraining your firm’s revenues, if any? Please select up to three.

Jul. '20
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Supply-chain disruptions 13.8 30.2
Limited operating capacity due to staffing shortages (COVID-19 infections and quarantining, absenteeism, difficulty hiring, etc.) 17.8 27.5
Weak demand 54.3 24.9
Reduced productivity due to alternative work arrangements 16.3 9.1
Limited operating capacity due to state/local restrictions 26.8 6.4
Other 18.8 14.3
None/not applicable 13.0 25.7

NOTE: 265 responses.

6. Has your firm taken any of the following steps in response to the recent rise in COVID-19 infections in Texas? Please select all that apply.

Jul. '20
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Required on-site employees to wear face coverings N/A 51.6
Required on-site customers to wear face coverings N/A 31.3
Increased spending on health and safety equipment at facility 58.7 28.1
Decreased number of employees working on-site 49.1 22.7
Postponed efforts to bring telecommuting workers back on-site 36.4 19.9
Reduced customer capacity at business location(s) 30.0 13.3
Required occasional testing for COVID-19 among on-site employees N/A 11.7
Required on-site employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 N/A 10.5
Partially shut down business operations temporarily 25.1 6.3
Postponed plans for recalling furloughed workers or new hiring 14.1 3.1
Partially shut down business operations permanently 2.8 1.6
Laid off or furloughed workers 14.1 0.8
Fully shut down business operations temporarily 4.2 0.4
Fully shut down business operations permanently 0.7 0.4
Other N/A 10.9
None 12.4 21.5

NOTES: 256 responses. Some new response choices were added in Aug. '21 and show as not applicable (N/A) in the July '20 column.

7. How has this recent surge in COVID-19 cases affected your business differently than prior surges, and how has your response differed (if at all)?

These comments are from respondents’ completed surveys and have been edited for publication.

Support Activities for Mining   

  • Minimal differences; same issues and problems.

Utilities

  • Just the overall optimism is gone.
  • The recent surge has been less impactful; however, a recently approved health order has mandated indoor face coverings for the next 30 days.

Specialty Trade Contractors

  • We are being asked to only send vaccinated people. Some of our employees are pushing back saying that it is a HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] violation for them to be asked. Some won’t tell us if they have been vaccinated or not. So, we send whomever and let the customer make the decision as to whether this person can work there or not. Very inefficient.
  • It has only affected us from a timing standpoint.

Air Transportation

  • No.

Truck Transportation

  • Strained, tired culture; turnover for poor reasons.
  • So far it has no effect.

Pipeline Transportation

  • This surge is not any different in terms of how it affects our operations and revenues. It is, however, demoralizing for the executives and the workforce. People are getting weary.
  • We have gone to full masking and seen generally less-severe incidents other than unvaccinated individuals. We have encouraged employees to vaccinate.

Support Activities for Transportation

  • No problems so far.
  • The recent surge has only required a few individuals to stay home and for a limited time. We have maintained all our internal protocols and have not relaxed them since implementation. Our staff is currently 98 percent vaccinated. 

Warehousing and Storage

  • We are currently operating at full capacity, but we have slowed our recall of telecommuting workers in nonessential positions.

Publishing Industries (Except Internet)

  • Similar, but round 2 Delta is now causing new delays.

Broadcasting (Except Internet)

  • We are seeing decreased demand that we believe is due to a general slowdown from this recent surge.  Our response is different in that we are allowing everyone to come to work and not demanding masks for employees and customers. Obviously, there is uncertainty about how long this surge will last, but we are planning on the surge in Texas receding by Oct. 1.

Data Processing, Hosting and Related Services

  • Many industry conferences scheduled for August and September have been canceled. The result has been the loss of prepaid expenses made for these conferences and the loss of new revenue from generating new clients. Both are significant.

Credit Intermediation and Related Activities

  • It hasn't.
  • No impact.
  • We have not required masks or vaccinations. Customer-contact staff have started utilizing shields at their stations. At some locations we have restricted customer entry to the lobby and encourage distancing.
  • No difference.
  • We are strongly recommending all employees get vaccinated; the majority are.
  • We are not closing lobbies or reducing staff.
  • We have all staff working from the office and have not made any changes yet in our response to the recent surge. We will consider adjustments if the surge continues to climb.
  • The recent surge has not had an impact so far. If governmental units order closures, that may have an impact on our business, especially with respect to retail properties with restaurants or bars as tenants.
  • The Delta variant is hitting harder. We are still not seeing an increase in the percent vaccinated. We are reverting back to mask mandates for employees at work locations and stricter social distancing practices.
  • No impact.

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

  • Same response as before.
  • Reduces staff collaboration in the office to keep everyone healthy. Ninety-five percent of staff are working remotely.
  • No.
  • Slowdown—somewhat.
  • There is less uncertainty with this surge because there is more certainty that the surge will subside eventually. There is less fear in the market so there is slightly more activity than with previous surges. Our response has not differed.

Insurance Carriers and Related Activities

  • We delayed our back-to-office schedule.
  • We shut down last time, but we're hoping to socially distance and keep the office open. But more and more employees are asking to work from home.
  • Same.

Real Estate

  • No effect.
  • COVID fatigue is becoming more evident among our employees, contractors and clients.
  • No dramatic impact from the recent surge. Our response is tame. 
  • We have all vaccinated employees wear a lanyard saying, “I have been vaccinated” and all unvaccinated people wear masks. We are stunned at how many people have not been vaccinated in our suburban offices.
  • A return-to-work delay is impacting our ability to build new office projects.
  • No change; we are just able to respond more quickly since we knew what procedures to implement.
  • No real change but are concerned about the virus.

Rental and Leasing Services

  • Our response is pretty much the same except preaching the vaccine. The effect is not very bad yet, but the ramp-up has just started.

Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

  • More working at home.
  • None.
  • No difference.
  • The difference from prior surges is the insanity of state officials trying to block "local control" with "no-mask mandates." My response has been to become more vocal in calling out state officials for their stupidity and to support local officials for their efforts in defying the "no-mask mandates" that Gov. [Greg] Abbott and company have tried to impose.
  • It seems more unpredictable and more widespread. It is more difficult to plan and stay on track. Managing human resources and scheduling are even more difficult than previous surges.
  • Lots of folks are staying home due to testing positive. Most are vaccinated.
  • There are differences in federal, state and local policies.
  • U.S. and global demand is not rising. COVID-19 may reduce our revenue this year (2021) from 2020.
  • We have had a few cases postponed due to COVID. It has not affected us much yet, but we are watching it. 
  • The previous surge resulted in consulting engagements for PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loans and other government relief programs. This surge has not produced any similar programs.
  • Clients seem less likely to spend because of economic and global uncertainty.
  • We are starting to have different policies for vaccinated versus unvaccinated.
  • It makes planning and forecasting difficult due to the uncertainty in the marketplace.
  • We have been operating under "red alert" since last year, taking all precautions and not letting our guard down. So far, it has worked out well for us.
  • It has not affected our business to this point.
  • We are largely working remotely, with some in-office attendance. Those coming in must be vaccinated or have a current test.
  • No effect and no change in response.
  • There is uncertainty if employees will have to return to working from home.
  • No changes.
  • Because most of our team has been vaccinated and all of our leadership has been vaccinated, we aren't feeling that it is necessary to take extra precautions than we have been throughout. We have mandated return to the office as of Aug. 1, 2021, and are requiring employees to be in the office or on-site with our clients three days a week, and work from home is allowed two days a week.
  • Local and state government policies are facilitating concern of shutting down, which is creating apprehension that conventions will be worth having; therefore, many events are canceling due to expectations of city policies.
  • We are having interruptions in production because of lower-end labor being out temporarily because of either exposure or sickness with COVID-19.
  • We are seeing the effects on the ability of our clients in making decisions about fundraising events, donor meetings and stewardship activities. We are witnessing decision fatigue and an overall weariness from all of the uncertainty.
  • No change.
  • We returned to the office on June 7. Since that time, at least 10 percent of our staff have or have family members that have been exposed to COVID, necessitating them to return to remote work until they and/or their family members have been medically cleared. This is not a huge concern for our productivity since we are set up for remote work. It has, however, signaled that we may be in this mode for an extended period, and several staff members may choose to not return to the office permanently.

Management of Companies and Enterprises

  • No.
  • We anticipate we will have to respond to the recent rise in COVID.

Administrative and Support Services

  • No change.
  • Heightened awareness but are taking preventative measures without the fear of prior surges, resulting in a measured approach to managing through the surge. 
  • We are not affected.
  • We have had 10 canceled meetings in the last week and a half. The pace of the cancellations looks like it was looking in February.
  • We are experiencing high demand for our staff, low supply and difficulty finding insurance companies willing to underwrite our professional liability.
  • It's affected us the same as before.
  • Some employees are not wanting to come in to work.
  • Our leisure department had 30 percent cancellations for this year. Prior to the new Delta variant, we had a 60 percent increase in sales for this department. In 2020, once the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, we did not have any sales for government, corporate or leisure travel until this year. Airlines and tour companies have provided travel agents with ample information to provide our customers in case they decide to travel. This year, we are more prepared than we were last year to take care of our customers.
  • It's the new reality. We are going to be dealing with evolving health care conditions that impact in-office and at-client activities for the foreseeable future. We are focusing on training staff and acceptance of the new reality. This isn't going away anytime soon.
  • Business development depends on face-to-face contact. Due to the Delta variant being much more contagious, we are limiting face-to-face to one to three people at a time and avoiding larger group settings where most new contacts are made.
  • We are better prepared. We have maintained the same health, safety and cleaning protocols as were in place in spring into summer. We had relaxed mask wearing somewhat, but have strongly encouraged mask wearing in public settings or when working directly with customers. We are continuing to use technology to host hybrid meetings.
  • We have maintained the same protocol since the beginning of COVID.
  • Utter and total confusion as to what a small business owner should do to keep customers and vendors and employees all in balance as to current PPE [personal protective equipment] requirements, vaccinations, employees’ concerns about their children being masked or not masked—this has had a huge impact on vaccination compliance with our customers and employees.

Waste Management and Remediation Services

  • Not much of an impact.

Educational Services

  • We are working through it.
  • We are hampered by the governor's injunction against mask mandates, so we strongly request but cannot enforce masks.

Ambulatory Health Care Services

  • It has increased the need for emergency food from our food bank at the same time that public and government financial support is reducing.
  • It is now against the governor's mandate to require masks in our locations. Mental health and IDD [intellectual and developmental disabilities] community centers are not considered medical although we are medical. We are not permitted to require masks. This is extremely dangerous for our staff and clients.
  • The recent surge amongst students is hurting the female workforce in the health care sector. Children testing positive is leading to the mom quarantining themselves and loss of that employee for a minimum of 10 days even if they are vaccinated and are not positive.
  • Well, not as badly since we weren't shut down. Otherwise, just exacerbated normal fear in population of going to the dentist.
  • Increased knowledge of the virus and the availability of testing supplies and equipment have helped us deal with the current surge more effectively.
  • The rate of increase in COVID exposures and positive cases is alarming. We saw this in November, December and January (over three months), but we went from very little COVID activity in July to our highest levels within a month.
  • Just decreased demand.
  • Little difference. The response is essentially the same.

Hospitals

  • Previous surges brought significant federal funding and staffing resources to assist in management of caseload. Neither has been available to us during the current surge.

Nursing and Residential Care Facilities

  • Our response to this recent surge in COVID-19 is slightly different than prior surges due to 1) high percent of residents and associates vaccinated, and 2) different state regulations limiting the degree of COVID-19 restrictions we can enforce on visitation. Staffing shortage is still a very real issue due to federal policies more so than COVID-19 this time.

Social Assistance

  • Similar in that government can't agree on what to do and then puts onus on the business entity to implement and enforce.

Accommodation

  • Not too much effect at the moment.
  • We are seeing large companies cancel meeting events.
  • Yes; many people have been vaccinated and so they are waiting to see how the surge plays out versus a year ago, where many still had not been vaccinated. We are in a moment. The next two to three weeks will be telling on how the fall will play out in our industry.

Food Services and Drinking Places

  • Less inside sales, increased to-go sales.
  • No impact.
  • From March to July, every day better and better. August dining is slower.
  • No difference.
  • We are looking at a lower revenue trend, and inflation has become challenging.
  • None.
  • We have had more temporary partial shutdowns due to loss of employees from possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Tough on morale and efforts to hire more staff. Low to no business travel and the postponed return to office hurt our business very much.

Repair and Maintenance

  • So far nothing has been affected.
  • Employees are somewhat anxious.

Personal and Laundry Services

  • No effect.

Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional and Similar Organizations

  • No difference.
  • None at all.
  • The Delta variant has damaged our business.
  • We fell back to original adjustments.
  • We are pulling back on in-person meetings and events. We are back to all wearing masks.
  • The majority of my team is vaccinated (85 percent) so we are all back in the office. Those unvaccinated must test once a week and wear masks at all times except when eating/drinking and must maintain social distancing from others. Vaccinated individuals may remove masks when at their workstation and socially distanced. The first wave required us all to work from home. 
  • The vaccinated are confident and well. There are the unvaccinated employees who are now either sick themselves or have children and spouses who have tested positive. The attitude of many is that the unvaccinated had an opportunity to avoid this disease but chose to pass on it. (Our company paid the employee and any family member $100 to get a free shot.) 

Special Questions Comments

These comments have been edited for publication.

Credit Intermediation and Related Activities

  • We are closely monitoring COVID infection numbers, which are increasing rapidly in metropolitan areas but not as rapidly in our rural areas.

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

  • We still see businesses that need workers due to the increased demand. Due to some uncertainty regarding surge after surge, we expect nonworkers to remain on the sidelines for some time as long as there are government incentives and subsidies. Those business owners who have hired and are seeing reduced demand due to the recent surge will likely suffer reduced profitability.

Rental and Leasing Services

  • I have had the vaccine and still got COVID. My case was not very bad, but the recovery to regain strength and get over the COVID fog is longer than one expects.

Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

  • As a company of one (sole proprietor), I wear a mask everywhere and am fully vaccinated (since early February, Moderna). Anyone I bring on board to help me would have to be fully vaccinated and wear a mask. While I have no control of my customers' sites, I require masks and vaccination to visit my office.
  • If the cases rise and hospitalizations continue, we may see more trials be postponed, not only for exposure reasons, but because family members of attorneys and judges may need care or quarantining at home and will therefore be unable to attend court. We are watching these very carefully.
  • The global shipping crisis (lack of containers and vessels) to bring products from Europe and China has created a big problem in the global supply chain.
  • Lack of adopting precautionary measures by governmental entities makes it more difficult for the private sector to adopt/enforce common sense safety/health policies among employees.

Administrative and Support Services

  • The lack of definitive knowledge, incubation period, lifecycle of the virus, effectiveness of the vaccine—all of these things make it impossible to develop a solid process to assure the safety of our workers.
  • Activity levels appear to be improving across the board. Clients are experiencing staffing issues and product shortages. We are adjusting to the new health care reality and transitioning to effectively dealing with evolving health care conditions that impact in-office and at-client activities for the foreseeable future. We are focusing on training staff and acceptance of the new reality. This isn't going away anytime soon.

Personal and Laundry Services

  • I am having a hard time hiring qualified employees. Very few people are applying, and those who apply often do not show up for the scheduled interview.

 

Texas Retail Outlook Survey

Data were collected August 17–25, and 43 Texas retailers responded to the survey.

1. Are you currently trying to hire or recall workers?

Apr. '21
(percent)
Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 56.5 53.2 71.1 72.1
No 43.5 46.8 28.9 27.9

NOTE: 43 responses.

1a. Are there any impediments to hiring or recalling workers? Please select all that apply.

Apr. '21
(percent)
Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Lack of available applicants/no applicants 80.0 76.0 84.4 90.3
Generous unemployment benefits 48.0 52.0 53.1 41.9
Lack of technical competencies (hard skills) 56.0 48.0 40.6 41.9
Workers looking for more pay than is offered 24.0 36.0 43.8 38.7
Lack of workplace competencies (soft skills) 24.0 36.0 31.3 32.3
Inability to pass drug test and/or background check 32.0 36.0 40.6 32.3
Fear of COVID-19 infection 4.0 4.0 9.4 29.0
Lack of experience 32.0 32.0 31.3 16.1
Lack of child care 12.0 12.0 12.5 16.1
Other 4.0 8.0 9.4 6.5
None 0.0 4.0 0.0 3.2

NOTES: 31 responses. This question was only posed to those currently trying to hire or recall workers.

1b. How has the availability of applicants changed over the past month?

Jun. '21
(percent)
Jul. '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Improved significantly 0.0 0.0 7.1
Improved slightly 15.8 37.0 21.4
No change 47.4 40.7 57.1
Worsened slightly 21.1 18.5 7.1
Worsened significantly 15.8 3.7 7.1

NOTES: 28 responses. This question was only posed to those noting a lack of available applicants/no applicants.

2. Are you currently trying to fill low-skill positions (roles typically requiring a high school diploma or less and minimal work experience)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 66.0 62.8
No 34.0 37.2

NOTE: 43 responses.

2a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 2.9 0.0
Somewhat difficult 20.6 44.4
Very difficult 76.5 55.6

NOTES: 27 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill low-skill postions.

3. Are you currently trying to fill mid-skill positions (roles typically requiring some college or technical training)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 59.6 70.0
No 40.4 30.0

NOTE: 40 responses.

3a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 0.0 0.0
Somewhat difficult 45.2 42.9
Very difficult 54.8 57.1

NOTES: 28 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill mid-skill postions.

4. Are you currently trying to fill high-skill positions (roles typically requiring a college degree or higher)?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Yes 20.8 37.2
No 79.2 62.8

NOTE: 43 responses.

4a. How difficult is it to find workers to fill these positions?

May '21
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Not difficult 9.1 12.5
Somewhat difficult 45.5 43.8
Very difficult 45.5 43.8

NOTES: 16 responses. This question was posed only to those trying to fill high-skill postions.

5. What are the primary factors restraining your firm’s revenues, if any? Please select up to three.

Jul. '20
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Supply-chain disruptions 51.0 73.8
Weak demand 49.0 26.2
Limited operating capacity due to staffing shortages (COVID-19 infections and quarantining, absenteeism, difficulty hiring, etc.) 22.4 23.8
Reduced productivity due to alternative work arrangements 12.2 7.1
Limited operating capacity due to state/local restrictions 20.4 4.8
Other 20.4 7.1
None/not applicable 6.1 9.5

NOTE: 42 responses.

6. Has your firm taken any of the following steps in response to the recent rise in COVID-19 infections in Texas? Please select all that apply.

Jul. '20
(percent)
Aug. '21
(percent)
Required on-site employees to wear face coverings N/A 45.0
Required on-site customers to wear face coverings N/A 32.5
Increased spending on health and safety equipment at facility 70.6 30.0
Decreased number of employees working on-site 31.4 22.5
Postponed efforts to bring telecommuting workers back on-site 23.5 17.5
Reduced customer capacity at business location(s) 23.5 12.5
Required on-site employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 N/A 12.5
Required occasional testing for COVID-19 among on-site employees N/A 7.5
Postponed plans for recalling furloughed workers or new hiring 7.8 5.0
Partially shut down business operations permanently 2.0 5.0
Fully shut down business operations permanently 0.0 2.5
Laid off or furloughed workers 15.7 0.0
Partially shut down business operations temporarily 19.6 0.0
Fully shut down business operations temporarily 0.0 0.0
Other N/A 5.0
None 13.7 20.0

NOTES: 40 responses. Some new response choices were added in Aug. '21 and show as not applicable (N/A) in the July '20 column.

7. How has this recent surge in COVID-19 cases affected your business differently than prior surges, and how has your response differed (if at all)?

These comments are from respondents’ completed surveys and have been edited for publication.

Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods

  • We haven't changed our response since the beginning of COVID.
  • Our manufacturing and machine shop customers are having difficulty acquiring raw materials, namely steel and related materials, making it difficult to produce their products, which affects the need for the products we sell them, like cutting tools and abrasives.
  • Things just seem stale; people are back to the wait and “see what happens” mode. 
  • No effect.
  • The recent surge has caused staffing shortages.
  • There is more absenteeism due to Delta than we experienced with first and second waves.

Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods

  • This surge has created a new level of anxiety and uncertainty if restaurants begin closing their dining rooms.
  • Mask covering restarted.
  • No change.
  • Much scarier, makes us unsure; customers have not all returned to work; less demand for product; economy unsure.
  • It is completely different in customer and employee reactions compared to March 2020.

Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers

  • Employee absenteeism increased due to family members testing positive for COVID. Employees quarantined for 10 to 14 days, impacting efficiency of operations.
  • It appears in midst of the surge, life continues versus in previous surges when life scaled back.
  • We have returned to implementing the same procedures we had with original pandemic: face coverings for employees, encouraged them but didn’t require them for customers, distancing and shields between employees and customers.
  • No change.
  • We had 10 employees out at one time because of COVID.

Furniture and Home Furnishings Stores

  • We seem to be better prepared.

Gasoline Stations

  • So far, no impact.

Nonstore Retailers

  • We have facilities in five locations in Texas, typically about seven to eight employees per location. Recently at one location (San Antonio), two employees became ill with COVID at the same time. This placed a tremendous burden on that location, and we turned to temporary employees to get through.

Special Questions Comments

These comments have been edited for publication.

Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods

  • We are seeing strong demand, a weak supply chain and weak worker availability; we are still going to have a great year that will approach the levels of 2019.

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

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