Census Bureau: New Experimental “Pulse” Surveys to Track Temporal Trends in Housing and Small Businesses During Pandemic

In response to the unprecedented circumstances presented by COVID-19 and the urgent need for data, the U.S. Census Bureau is launching two new experimental surveys to measure temporal social and economic trends in the nation’s small businesses and households over the next three months. Responses from these experimental surveys will be posted within weeks of collection and will provide insight into the scope of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on social and economic measures in the U.S.

The experimental Small Business Pulse Survey includes a limited number of questions on topics such as location closings, changes in employment, disruptions in the supply chain, the use of federal assistance programs, and expectations concerning future operations. The survey should take just 5 minutes to complete. Each week, over 100,000 small businesses will receive the Small Business Pulse Survey and will be asked to respond within one week. Over the course of nine weeks, nearly one million small businesses will receive an invitation to participate. This survey defines small businesses as having a single location with 1 to 499 employees.

Results of this survey could provide useful information to the public, businesses, and policymakers for understanding how changes in business operations, employment, hours, and the availability of consumer goods and services are impacting American life. Data is planned to be posted weekly beginning in mid-May and is expected to include estimates for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, as well as for the 50 most populated Metropolitan Statistical Areas. 

The experimental Household Pulse Survey is the result of an effort by the Census Bureau to work in collaboration with other federal statistical agencies to document temporal trends in how individuals are experiencing business curtailment and closures, stay-at-home orders, school closures, changes in the availability of consumer goods and consumer patterns, and other abrupt and significant changes to American life.  Updates in question wording and weighting procedures are likely to change over the course of the implementation. Census expects to produce and disseminate data on a weekly basis. The sample is designed to produce estimates for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as for the 15 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas.  

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