The vast majority of metro Milwaukee business leaders are optimistic about how their businesses will perform this year, according to the quarterly Business Outlook Survey conducted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
According to the survey results, 70% of the respondents said they expect sales increases this year, 63% expect profit gains and 51% expect job growth in their businesses in 2021.
The survey, conducted in mid-January, includes responses from 92 metro Milwaukee businesses, of a variety of sizes and industries.
First quarter expectations are more tepid, with 40% predicting higher sales for the quarter, 41% expecting profit increases for the quarter and 24% expecting job gains for the quarter.
"While metro Milwaukee business leaders' expectations for calendar year 2021 don't match the level of optimism they expressed at this time a year ago, before the (COVID-19) pandemic hit, they represent significant improvement over what we've heard from our business community in recent quarters," said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC's economic research director. "First-quarter expectations remain on the low side but are improving, suggesting the local economy will recover slowly in early 2021 and gather momentum as the year moves forward."
Of those surveyed, 88% expect to see business operations return to normal sometime in 2021, with 16% saying they have already reached that level and another 16% saying they expect to do so within the first half of the year.
In addition, 74% of those surveyed said their businesses are fully open, while 26% said their operations are open, but limited.
Going forward, 53% said they were not at all concerned about remaining viable, while 36% said they were somewhat concerned and 11% said they were very concerned.
During the fourth quarter of 2020, 12% of businesses surveyed said they had decreases in their remote workforce, while 38% expect remote work to decrease this year, and 12% expect remote work to increase this year.
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