Mixed results and mixed feelings in the region’s business sector; substantial discrepancies between industries

How are companies from the Basel region coping with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic? Which industries are confident, what kind of companies unsure about their future or even existentially threatened – despite support and relief by the Cantons and the Federal Government? A joint survey by trade associations and economic development agencies of the Cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft has picked up and sorted throught the mixed messages coming from the economy of the Basel region.

The results of a joint public economic survey* among regional companies paint a rather heterogeneous picture of the local economy: A close third of the participants each describe their current course of business as «good» or «satisfactory» respectively. 23% of the companies surveyed report an unsatisfactory course of business, 13% consider it outright poor. Compared to the same period of the previous year, 12% of the companies rate the current course of business as better, 31% as equal, and 57% as worse. When it comes to the expected course of business in the next six months, 19% anticipate improvement, 50% stagnation and 32% a deterioration of their business. A sense of restraint is palpable for the second semester 2020 regarding the development of investments and workforce. Only a mere 13% of the companies anticipate investment growth, 46% expect a stagnation, and 41% prepare for a decrease in investments. Staff numbers are poised for growth at 10% of the companies, expected to stay the same at a considerable 67%, while 23% of companies surveyed brace for reduction in employment.

The survey analysed 14 industry sectors and classified them according to three general mood indicators: Industries that are barely affected by the Corona crisis or able to cope with the fallout (on average, these companies score above the survey’s average); industries significantly impacted by the crisis but optimistic to find their way out (companies mostly within the average scores of the survey); and companies that are hit hard and threatened sustainably or even existentially by the crisis (on average, these companies score below the survey’s average).

The group that has managed to limit economic damage so far is composed of companies from the real estate, finance and insurance, chemicals and life sciences (pharma, biotech, medtech, agrotech), construction, information and communications technology sectors, along with science and education as well as health and social services. The group of significantly impacted companies, yet with a potential track to recovery, includes retail and wholesale, the services sector in general as well as logistics, transportation and traffic industries. Members of the group battling with sustainably and long-term adverse effects from COVID-19 are companies in the mechanical, electrical and metals (MEM) and industrial sector in general, and – clearly the most impacted economic sector – Tourism, Gastronomy and Hospitality, and Events.

The survey was jointly commissioned and conducted between 19th June and 5th July 2020 by the Employers’ Association of Basel, the Trade Association of Basel-Stadt, the Chamber of Commerce of both Basel (lead), and both of the economic development agencies of Basel-Stadt AWA and Basel-Landschaft. 635 executives from all industrial sectors and all company sizes participated in the survey, slightly more than half of them is from Basel-Stadt.