After hitting a record low in 2021, business confidence is rebounding with 57% of business feeling confident in the outlook of their organization, compared to 48% in 2021. For context, that’s nearing the 61% of business that were confident in their outlook in 2019. Confidence in Ontario’s outlook as a whole is also rebounding at 29% — well above last year’s 21% and nearing 2019’s 30%. Pre- and post-COVID figures will be key to measuring our recovery, both in broad terms and for specific sectors and industries. These figures come from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce 2022 Ontario Economic Report, the annual report that offers unique insights into business perspectives from across the province. As with any statistical report in such a changing environment, the numbers are just a snapshot in time and don’t reflect everything that has changed during the research and reporting. In this case, most of the survey work was completed before Omicron brought about a new wave of public health measures. That said, it’s aim is to address the large trends rather than the weekly ups and downs. While optimism is up in a general sense, those lagging behind tend to be smaller businesses, businesses located in border regions, organizations led by women and people with disabilities, and businesses in the arts, entertainment, and agricultural sectors. Along with increasing optimism, fewer businesses are shrinking, with 38% reporting to have shrunk in 2021, compared to 56% the year before. What businesses expect moving forward: • Remote work — Most businesses expect to at least partially continue remote work in 2022, though some continue to face barriers in terms of digital skills, technology costs, and support. • Labour shortages — 52% of businesses are currently facing labour shortage challenges and many expect that to continue for some time. • Prioritizing employee health and well-being as well as diversity and inclusion, though the OCC notes many organizations are struggling with formal strategies to support these objectives. The main policy priorities businesses want their chambers of commerce to address are business taxes and electricity costs. Smaller businesses are prioritizing financial support while larger businesses are focused on infrastructure, regulatory, and workforce development issues. Optimism is partially being driven by the belief that high vaccination rates are bringing about some stability, but it’s also about growth. Businesses who were well positioned to serve current needs or adapted to do so have seen strong demand for their products and services. Others have used this as an opportunity to invest in new technologies that have helped make their business more resilient and better positioned for growth. Pessimism is mostly due to uncertainty around COVID-19 and businesses specifically lack confidence in provincial and federal government responses to the pandemic. Many businesses required some support to get through this last year. Of the programs available, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan program were the most widely used with the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) also proving popular. Economic indicators are backing up what the businesses are saying. According to the Bank of Montreal, the GDP increased 2% in 2019, dropped 5.1% in 2020, then rebounded to 4.2% in 2021 and is on track to increase another 4.1% in 2022. Employment growth follows a similar trend, with a 2.8% increase in 2019, a 4.7% drop in 2020, followed by a 4.9% increase in 2021 and a likely 4.2% increase in 2022. Other than vaccines making a significant impact on our fight against COVID-19, not a lot has changed over the last two years. COVID won’t be disappearing any time soon and businesses are facing significant issues with supply chains, inflation, and labour access. So what is driving our optimism and growth? It’s really a story of adaptation. Business have risen to the challenge by changing how they do business. They’ve invested in new technology and new ways to engage their customers, even though finances were tight. It hasn’t been an easy road, but pushing for a more optimistic future is the way forward.
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce acts as a catalyst to enhance business growth, opportunity, innovation, partnerships and a diverse business community.