Barlow Survey: Unemployment to Remain High

   MINNEAPOLIS - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 11/11/10 - With poor past results and weak expectations for the future, small businesses are not preparing to grow employment or capital expenditures. This can be seen reflected in their estimates of when unemployment will return to a more normal level of 5.5 percent.
   Barlow Research’s Fourth Quarter Economic Pulse shows over one-third of small businesses (sales $100K to $10MM) and one in five middle market companies (sales $10MM to $500MM) believe that elevated unemployment is the new normal. For the remaining businesses, the median estimate for a return to a normal level of unemployment is 2013.
   High unemployment could mean continued low interest rates. With many financial institutions using interest rates on government debt as an earnings credit on business deposit accounts, Barlow Research estimates through its Value of the Customer model that a financial institution could see a revenue loss of 25-30 percent annually from the average small business customer when compared to a normal interest rate environment.
   With a loss of 30 percent of revenue, it will be important to discover ways to return the lost profitability. Some banks will recuperate revenues with increases in fees on accounts and transactions.
   These potential fee increases may create opportunities for cost-conscious banks to attract new customers. When small businesses are asked why they plan to change banks in the next 12 months, the top reason was increased fees and rates.
   During Barlow Research’s Economic Pulse web cast, guest panelists were asked how they expect increased profitability in the commercial banking segment.
  “We expect to see consolidation in the industry," Scott Peterson of Deluxe Corporation said. "The four largest institutions (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citicorp) may not be able to participate due to deposit caps, but everyone else with a solid balance sheet is likely considering consolidation as a strategic option. In a flat economy, cost-driven, scale economies offer a path to profit growth.”