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About the Small Business Credit Survey

With changes in the small-business credit environment in recent years, Federal Reserve policy makers have an interest in understanding the impact of those changes on small businesses and their ability to obtain the credit they need to operate and grow. The Small Business Credit Survey (SBCS) helps to strengthen that understanding by asking the business owners themselves about their credit needs and experiences.

Background

The recession of 2007-2009 and accompanying financial crisis brought about a significant reduction in credit availability for small-business borrowers. Bank lending to small firms dropped significantly and has been slow to recover, while nonbank lenders have entered the market in recent years. Given the importance of small firms’ access to credit and, in turn, the impact of small businesses on economic growth, policy makers have been interested in understanding the changing dynamics of the small business credit environment.

With limited data available on small business credit conditions, the twelve Federal Reserve Banks conducted a series of 40 meetings in 2010 to gather information and perspectives on credit gaps (see summary here). Subsequently, several Reserve Banks conducted regional surveys to reach business owners in their districts to gather information on credit experiences. For example, in 2013, the Cleveland Fed conducted a survey of small business owners in the Fourth Federal Reserve District. Those results are available here.

In 2014, the Atlanta, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia Reserve Banks collaborated for the first time on a joint survey, gathering over 2,000 responses from firms in 10 states (results found here). In 2015, seven Reserve Banks participated in the SBCS, reaching more than 5,000 small firms from 26 states (see results here). In 2016, the survey achieved national coverage through a collaboration of all 12 Reserve Banks. This national perspective deepens our data pool and allows us to tell the story of small businesses’ credit experiences from a local, regional, and national standpoint. (see results here).

About the Survey

The SBCS is a convenience-sample survey conducted in partnership with business and industry associations, local agencies, and non-profits. The survey captures the perspectives of business owners operating firms with fewer than 500 employees in the coverage area. The results are weighted to reflect the full population of businesses in the covered states along the dimensions of industry, age, employee size, and geography. Each year, we produce analyses of and reports on the data gathered from small-business owners (see results for discrete years of the SBCS here.) The 2017 SBCS will again gather insights from across the U.S., with results expected in the spring of 2018 (details here).

The SBCS questionnaire covers these key areas:

  • Firm performance and challenges: Changes in revenue, number of employees, outlook for the business, and financial challenges facing the business.
  • Financing needs and borrower experiences: Sources of financing, credit products utilized, and experiences applying for and obtaining credit.

For any questions about the Small Business Credit Survey, please contact Ann Marie Wiersch at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland at 216.579.2423 or annmarie.wiersch@clev.frb.org.

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