Economic damage from shutdown is looming, UWO studies find

The Brillion News

Posted on April 24, 2020 @ 3 p.m.

OSHKOSH - Thirty-five percent of Wisconsin businesses responding to a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh statewide survey will be forced to close if current conditions persist for more than three months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, which yielded nearly 2,550 responses from companies in 63 of the state’s 72 counties, covers the period April 1-10, said Jeffrey Sachse, director of UW Oshkosh’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS).

Results also showed 8,795 jobs lost in the earliest days of Wisconsin’s safer-at-home order, along with losses of $95 million in inventory, $126 million in income, $26.6 million in lost wages and productivity income and nearly $404 million in other impacts.

“The conditions reported here represent companies’ efforts to adapt to changing conditions,” Sachse said. “These impacts are certain to rise when we revisit these companies in a month, two months and six months’ time. The assistance that these companies require and the effects felt throughout the state’s economy are both unprecedented and continuous.”


UWO is partnering on the survey project with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation as well as New North and eight additional Regional Leadership Council organizations to assess COVID-19 recovery ability and state and federal aid efforts. Additional cooperators include the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association.


At the time of the first survey, the businesses—ranging from small sole-proprietorships to large firms like Kobussen Buses and UW Health—were still trying to adapt to the changes implemented in the safer-at-home order and in response to COVID-19.

In addition, the results were understated as more than 40 percent of responding firms indicated not being able to report specific impacts at the time.

The findings only point to greater effects as the worldwide health crisis persists, Sachse said.

He said the firms reported using a variety of approaches, including delaying payments and reducing inventories, as means of minimizing the impact of the crisis.

“Responding firms suggested that their greatest immediate needs are access to greater liquidity in the form of low-interest loans, grants and access to customers. This closely mimics trends reflected in the national policy debate and recent surveys reported by the Federal Reserve Board and Small Business Administration,” Sachse said.

Firms reported seeing a sharp reduction in productivity due to a shift to working from home, with most reporting a 25-50 percent decrease. This also tracks with national trends and reflects the difficulty that many traditional firms face in adapting to the rapidly changing conditions, he said.

The survey is the first in a series that will track the economic impact of COVID-19. Responding companies will be surveyed again during the first months of May, June, July and for the foreseeable future, with results released during the third week of each month.

Companies are invited to continue to respond to the initial survey at http://uwo.sh/covid-19-econ-disruption and be added to the survey group.

In addition, CCRS has released an interactive dashboard detailing survey responses along with advice and insights from University faculty at http://uwosh.edu/ccrs/covid-19-survey

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