The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a report on how economic surveys captured the initial shock and resulting impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as economic trends since the national emergency was declared. 

The brief, “The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Economic Impact,” uses data from the Quarterly Services Survey, Advance Monthly Retail Trade Survey, Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey, and Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders Survey to gauge the pandemic’s impact on key economic sectors.

Surveys such as the Annual Survey of Manufactures, Service Annual Survey and Annual Capital Expenditures Survey collected new data to capture the economic impact of the pandemic. In addition, e-commerce sales in the Annual Retail Trade Survey and the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey highlight how shopping trends changed during stay-at-home orders.

The report also looks at how the pandemic impacted tax revenue, state expenditures on hospital and health services, intergovernmental revenue, and state and local government pensions through additional surveys — the Quarterly Summary of State and Local Tax Revenues, the 2020 Annual Survey of State Government Finances and the Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions.

Highlights include:

Economic Indicators

• U.S. selected services estimated total revenue, adjusted for seasonal variation but not for price changes, decreased 8.7 percent from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter of 2020. 

• U.S. retail and food services estimated sales, adjusted for seasonal variation, holiday and trading-day differences but not for price changes, decreased 15.2 percent from March to April 2020.

• Estimated sales of merchant wholesalers (other than manufacturers’ sales branches and offices), adjusted for seasonal variation, holiday, and trading-day differences but not for price changes, decreased 17.0 percent from March to April 2020.

• Estimated shipments of manufactured goods, adjusted for seasonal variation but not for price changes, decreased 14.8 percent from March to April 2020.


• Establishments in the Apparel Manufacturing subsector were closed an estimated average of 38.2 days in 2020.


• Mental Health Specialists reported that in 2020, 39.2 percent of their estimated revenue came from telemedicine services.


• The Food and Beverage Store retail subsector experienced its highest year-to-year growth in estimated e-commerce sales in 2020, up 172.7 percent from 2019. 


• Estimated e-commerce as a percentage of total sales for U.S. merchant wholesalers increased from 33.6 percent in 2019 to 35.6 percent in 2020.

Annual Capital Expenditures

• Of those U.S. companies with employees that received financial assistance in 2020, an estimated 61.0 percent used the funds to rehire or maintain employees on their payroll, 20.1 percent used the funds to pay the rent/mortgage, 15.3 percent to pay for utilities, 2.2 percent for capital expenditures, and 5.6 percent for all other expenses. (Companies may have reported in more than one category.)

Public Sector

• Estimated state and local government tax revenue collections in the second quarter of 2020 fell by 19 percent from the same quarter in 2019 due to pandemic-related shutdowns and tax-filing deadline extensions but tax revenues collected rebounded by 46 percent in the second quarter of 2021.