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Michigan employers appear slightly more optimistic about future economic conditions than the nation overall

November 24, 2020

By Kevin Marrs, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

(TROY, MI, November 24, 2020) – In the just released 2021 National Business Trends Survey from the Employer Associations of America (EAA), 44% of executives expect the overall outlook for the 2021 economy to be improving. This annual survey shares information on what executives nationally are doing to address the changing business climate. Survey responses also reflect the impact COVID-19 has had on this year’s business trends.

When executives were asked if the overall U.S. economy in the next 12 months will “improve, stay the same, or decline,” the largest segment of respondents (44%) think it will improve, as opposed to last year with only 12% planning that the economy would improve. This year, 33% think it will stay the same (last year 52% expected the economy to stay the same). Only 24% think it will decline (compared to 36% in 2020).

“COVID certainly has had a significant impact and perhaps many are feeling that the economy can only get better moving forward into 2021,” said EAA Board of Directors Chair Thoran Towler. “In fact, fueling that optimism, 57% of executives project slight to significant increases in sales and revenue. American businesses are showing their resilience and readiness to tackle today’s challenges and come out stronger than ever before.”

An additional 11 questions were added to this year’s survey regarding COVID-19’s impact on business, addressing employee safety, stay at home/social distancing, work from home/remote work, interviews/training online/remote meetings, hazard pay/bonus, and candidates unwilling to work in the office/field. When asked how concerned respondents are regarding COVID-19 and its impact on business continuity (e.g. supply chain, financial implications, temporary shutdowns), 52% indicated that they are “extremely to moderately concerned.”

Following are the top five measures that executives say they have been or are planning to continue to implement in 2020 and 2021 to address COVID-19 (listed in order of the top responses from 2021).

Measures to address COVID-19

2020 % of Responses 2021 % of Responses
Deep clean/disinfect work areas on a regular basis 85 72
Enforce plans/policies regarding employees who become ill or exhibit COVID-19 symptoms while at work 84 70
Communicate frequently to employees about self-screening protocols 70 55
Increase signage regarding COVID-19 prevention protocols 77 52
Enforce plans/policies to accommodate employees who need to remain home due to underlying health issues


65 50

Similar to last year’s survey responses, the top three serious challenges for business executives include:

  • Talent acquisition
  • Talent retention
  • Ability to pay competitive wages

“Ability to pay for benefit costs” and “Cost of regulatory compliance” rounded out the overall top five business challenges facing 2021.

Also noteworthy for 2021 wage/salary strategies, 64% of the executives responding to the survey are planning to award wage/salary increases, along with 29% awarding variable pay bonuses for 2021.

According to 2021 survey responses, following are the top measures that executives say they have been implementing or are planning to continue in 2020 and 2021 to strengthen business results (listed in order of the top 2021 responses).

Top 5 measures

2020 % of Responses

2021 % of Responses

Invest in technology 38 47
Invest in equipment 33 41
Increase flexible work arrangements 39 39
Increase recruiting emphasis 20 26
Use data analytics to improve business strategy 15 21

In addition, the EAA 2021 National Business Trends Survey breaks results out on a local level as well.  Michigan employers appear slightly more optimistic about future economic conditions than the nation overall.  In fact, half of those surveyed in Michigan think U.S. economy in the next 12 months will improve.   Fewer than two of ten organizations expect conditions to decline.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented enormous challenges to Michigan employers.  It is unclear if this latest surge in COVID-19 cases will derail the sense of optimism seen in this data, but the prospect of effective vaccines should add to the optimism.  Michigan employers and ASE members remain focused on keeping their employees safe while managing their organizations and navigating this pandemic,” said ASE President and CEO, Mary E. Corrado.

The EAA is a nonprofit national association that provides this annual survey to business executives offering insights and trends for business outlooks, business investment plans, staffing levels, hiring plans, job creation, pay strategies, and business challenges. The 2021 survey saw an increase in participating organizations, up nearly 400 from last year with 1,484 participating organizations throughout the U.S.  For a copy of the full report, contact Kevin Marrs, ASE Vice President, at

About Employer Associations of America (EAA)

EAA consists of 30 regional employer associations serving 35,000 companies and more than six million employees. Regional employer associations are dedicated to serving their members as trusted partners that help members maximize the performance of their employees and their organization through business expertise in compliance, recruitment, retention, surveys, safety, training, and organization development. EAA’s mission is to advance a national presence and to promote local success among members through unparalleled collaboration, excellence, and efficiency. To learn more about the EAA, visit

About ASE
ASE is Michigan’s trusted HR partner.  ASE is a non-profit, membership organization – everything we do is based on the needs of our members and to help their organizations THRIVE. ASE strengthens organization’s HR departments by offering member benefits and discounted services that span the entire employee lifecycle including recruitment, development, and retention while minimizing compliance risk. We provide our members guidance through new legislation and workplace issues such as those currently occurring with the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about ASE at

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