Atlanta Fed Launches Economic Survey Research Center

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta announces the creation of the Economic Survey Research Center (ESRC), a new home for the Bank’s growing collection of business and household survey efforts. The mission of the ESRC is to collect, analyze, and interpret high-quality business and household survey data that inform monetary policy, contribute to academic research, and foster a greater understanding of the overall economy.

"Understanding the experiences and expectations of business leaders is crucial to policymaking, particularly in uncertain times like now as businesses and households deal with the effects of COVID-19," said Brent Meyer, policy adviser and economist in the Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. "The perspectives of firms' decision makers on business conditions and the likely path of economic activity are a useful complement to statistical agencies' data, which come with a lag."

The Atlanta Fed has long been a leader in gathering useful intelligence from business decision makers through its Regional Economic Information Network (REIN) and engaging with southeastern communities to make sure Main Street perspectives are represented during monetary policy conversations.

Recent findings from surveys conducted by the ESRC:

Even in the midst of a historic surge in the number of layoffs, quite a few U.S. companies are also hiring new workers in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The latest Survey of Business Uncertainty suggests that the COVID-19 shock caused three new hires for every 10 layoffs.

U.S. firms foresee intensifying impacts from COVID-19, but expectations for sales growth over the next four quarters are somewhat optimistic. Many surveyed firms expect uncertainty related to the virus to be behind us by the end of the year and are projecting a sharp snapback in sales growth in early 2021.

Businesses' inflation perceptions and expectations have fallen to their lowest level in the history of the Business Inflation Expectations Survey, which dates to 2011.

Central to all the surveys is the quality of the views that researchers engage with, and this led to the creation of the Outreach Lab which manages the recruitment and retention of survey panelists. Panel coordinators from the Outreach Lab contact businesses to offer them the opportunity to inform the policy-making process through participation in one of the regional or national surveys.