COVID-19 Business Outlook Survey

In spring 2020, DSA fielded a COVID-19 impact and economic outlook survey to help inform policy and advocacy efforts. The spring survey was administered through Survey Monkey from May 13–22 and received 323 responses from at least 294 unique businesses. This was followed up with a second wave of surveying between Aug. 28–Oct. 2, receiving 198 responses from at least 179 unique businesses.

Respondents represent a broad cross-section of both large and small Seattle businesses, most with downtown locations. Many represent industries highly impacted by efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, such as arts and entertainment, retail, restaurants, tourist attractions, nonprofits and hotels.

Explore the findings of the second wave in the summary and charts below or click the button to read a more detailed description of the findings. You can also find economic recovery statistics here.

Read the Summary (PDF)

We also partnered with Commute Seattle on a Return to Work survey in May 2021 asking employers about their plans, how employees will travel to work, perspectives on reopening and expectations for the coming months. Most (82%) of survey respondents said they envision a work culture that includes some time spent working in the office with 57% saying they envision a flexible hybrid work culture. The most commonly cited barriers to bringing employees back to work sites were COVID-19 safety and logistics and employee willingness to return (most commonly due to the commute). For more information on this survey, visit Commute Seattle’s website.


  • The biggest concern cited in both waves of the survey was lost business. This was cited by 74% in the first wave and 60% of respondents in the second wave. 
  • In the first wave of the survey, nearly all (90%) of respondents said they have seen a reduction in revenue. This fell to 80% of respondents in the second wave of the survey. 
    • The level of revenue loss cited by respondents in the second survey was improved over the first. In May, nearly half saw revenues decrease by more than 75%, while in the second wave, less than a third said this was the case.  
  • Regarding perceptions about the risk of permanent closure of businesses, there may be some survivorship bias. 
    • In the first wave, slightly more than one in 10 said they were at risk of permanent closure in less than two months at the current level of disruption. A little more than a third said they were at risk of closing in less than five months. Nearly one-third were not concerned about business closure.
    • In the second wave, almost no respondents said they were at risk of closure in the next couple of months; 17% in less than five months and about half said permanent closure was not a concern. 
  • Most layoffs among respondents are expected to be temporary, but more than a quarter are expected to be permanent.
  • Nearly half of respondents said that at least 25% of their employees have already returned to the office or worksite and most expect at least 25% of their employees to return to the office by mid-2021. However, 18% said they do not expect their workforce to return fully to their worksites until 2022 and 20% do not expect to ever reach that level. 
  • Most (59%) think that it will take between one and three years for the Seattle economy to recover.

Respondent Profile

Respondents represent at least 179 Seattle businesses:

  • 88% have locations downtown
  • 82% are locally owned
  • 80% have been in operation for at least 10 years
  • 71% are privately owned businesses 
  • 62% are brick-and-mortar businesses
  • 53% have fewer than 25 employees
  • A large share represent industries heavily impacted by COVID-19