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June 29 -- The Census Bureau invites public comments to OMB by August 2, 2021 regarding the proposed Phase 6 of the Small Business Pulse Survey, which would run for nine weeks, beginning August 16, 2021.    
 
Phase 1 of the Small Business Pulse Survey was launched on April 26, 2020 as an effort to produce and disseminate high-frequency, geographic- and industry-detailed experimental data about the economic conditions of small businesses as they experience the coronavirus pandemic. It is a rapid response endeavor that leverages the resources of the federal statistical system to address emergent data needs. Given the rapidly changing dynamics of this situation for American small businesses, the Small Business Pulse Survey has been successful in meeting an acute need for information on changes in revenues, business closings, employment and hours worked, disruptions to supply chains, and expectations for future operations. In addition, the Small Business Pulse Survey provided important estimates of federal program uptake to key survey stakeholders.

Due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic, the Census Bureau subsequently conducted Phases 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Small Business Pulse Survey. The Office of Management and Budget authorized clearance of Phase 5 of the Small Business Pulse Survey on May 11, 2021. The Census Bureau now seeks approval to conduct Phase 6 of the Small Business Pulse Survey which will occur over 9 weeks starting August 16, 2021.

The continuation of the Small Business Pulse Survey is responsive to stakeholder requests for high frequency data that measure the effect of changing business conditions during the Coronavirus pandemic on small businesses. While the ongoing monthly and quarterly economic indicator programs provide estimates of dollar volume outputs for employer businesses of all size, the Small Business Pulse Survey captures the effects of the pandemic on operations and finances of small, single location employer businesses. As the pandemic continues, the Census Bureau is best poised to collect this information from a large and diverse sample of small businesses.

It is hard to predict when a shock will result in economic activity changing at a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly frequency. Early in the pandemic, federal, state, and local policies were moving quickly so it made sense to have a weekly collection. The problem is that while we are in the moment, we cannot accurately forecast the likelihood of policy action. In addition, we are not able to forecast a change in the underlying cause of policy actions: The effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the economy. We cannot predict changes in the severity of the pandemic (e.g., will it worsen in flu season?) nor future developments that will alleviate the pandemic (e.g., vaccines or treatments). In a period of such high uncertainty, the impossibility of forecasting these inflection points underscores the benefits of having a weekly survey. For these reasons, the Census Bureau will proceed with a weekly collection.

SBPS Phase 6 content includes core concepts as previous phases, such as overall impact, business closures/openings, revenue and employment changes, and expectations while also including questions relevant to economic recovery and new business norms. Questions 11-14 are newly developed content for Phase 6 and are subjective rather than quantitative by design. The goal is for the respondent to provide their own context based on their discretion.
 
Small Business Pulse Survey webpage: https://www.census.gov/data/experimental-data-products/small-business-pulse-survey.html  
Proposed Phase 6 questionnaire: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/DownloadDocument?objectID=112652900
Phase 6 proposal to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202106-0607-004 Click IC List for forms, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation
FR notice inviting comments: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/06/29/2021-13868/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for
 
Point of contact: econ.pulse.data@census.gov   
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments to OMB, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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