Alaska SBDC Releases Compelling COVID-19 Impact Data on Small Businesses

Alaska SBDC Releases Compelling COVID-19 Impact Data on Small Businesses


Tourism and Hiring Present Ongoing Challenges for Alaskans

Alaska – May 19, 2021 – The Alaska Small Business Development Center (Alaska SBDC) has released its preliminary COVID-19 impact survey results on small businesses spanning the state. A familiar story emerges from the data: COVID-19 has negatively impacted the hiring market and tourism-based businesses. The main takeaways from the 1,200 survey responses are:

  • 43% of respondents reported they received PPP funding and 37% said they used the funds to retain staff that they otherwise would have let go or furloughed
  • The top 4 industries to report “Hiring Difficulties” include Food Service/Accommodation, Retail, Agriculture/Fishing, and Arts/Recreation
  • The top 5 hardest-hit Southeast Alaskan communities include Skagway, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Haines, and Hoonah-Angoon

Review the Impact Survey Results

Hiring Difficulties


Nearly 1,200 responses collected from across the state show that small businesses are struggling to hire employees. In fact, 31% of respondents have decreased staffing levels since COVID-19, and another 38% have maintained levels of staffing. This is particularly interesting considering that $3 billion in direct spending was allocated across the state, primarily for payroll expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 

Funding opportunities for these small businesses certainly had a positive impact. Notably, 43% of respondents reported they received PPP funding and 37% said they used the funds to retain staff that they otherwise would have let go or furloughed. A further 31% said they would have closed without the PPP, but 38% admitted they needed additional funds for payroll representing the drastic impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on small businesses.

Alaska SBDC Executive Director, Jon Bittner explained, “The data from the COVID-19 impact survey indicates that the hiring problems being felt across the state are due to a combination of factors impacting various industries and geographic regions in different ways.” This is represented with the top 4 industries reporting “Hiring Difficulties” including Food Service/Accommodation, Retail, Agriculture/Fishing, and Arts/Recreation. Of this Bittner reiterated, “When these responses were cross-referenced with revenue change data, the lack of tourism is highlighted as a major factor, indicating the tourism industry is having a particularly hard time due to lack of funding availability and opportunity.” 

Impact on Tourism

A handful of recurring industries account for 58% of all responses received regarding the impact of COVID-19 on tourism. They also account for 83% of answers to “Despite the funding, the business closed” and 75% of “Business was able to re-open after closing temporarily.” In the data, the following six industries are continuously represented as being one of the most impacted:

  • Admin, Support & Waste Management & Remediation (-58% Revenue change)
  • Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation (-39%)
  • Retail Trade (-34%)
  • Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting (-27%)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (-31%)
  • Transportation & Warehousing ([-42%)

By aggregating the data, it is clear that Southeast Alaska is struggling. The top 5 hardest-hit boroughs by revenue change include: Skagway (-58%), Ketchikan (-52%), Wrangell (-48%), Haines (-47%), and Hoonah-Angoon (-42%)

About the COVID-19 Impact Survey results Bittner reflected, “the data from Southeast Alaska is possibly reflected across other parts of the state due to lack of tourism. Specifically, communities in Southeast Alaska are concentrated, non-diverse economies, and highly dependent on or tangentially related to cruise ship tourism. This is further supported by the fact that other towns in the Southeast rely more heavily on the fishing industry reported less severe impacts.”

Learn more about what information the Alaska SBDC has received from small businesses across the state and follow the organization on socials at @AlaskaSBDC.

Review the Impact Survey Results

COVID-19 Resource Center