Anil Puri

Anil Puri

Almost a quarter of Orange County businesses expect to be at pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, while the hiring and profit outlook has also improved, according to a survey conducted by economists at California State University-Fullerton.

The survey of expectations for the three-month period starting next Wednesday is one of the strongest indications so far OC may have turned the corner on the recession and is heading back to growth.

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The overall outlook index, known as the OCBX, improved appreciably to 62.9 for the third quarter from 22.7 in the current three-month period.

“This is the most significant improvement in the index since the great recession of 2008-9,” said the researchers led by Anil Puri, the director of the university’s Woods Center for Economic Analysis and Forecasting.

While 24.3% of the businesses surveyed expect to get back to the pre-pandemic level by the end of December, a fifth think it will be after 2021, the survey said. Most others expect to get there by the middle of 2021.

Almost 23% of firms surveyed intend to increase their labor force, a huge jump over 3.8% in the last quarter, the survey said, while 58.6% intend to make no change. The number of companies planning to cut jobs fell from 50% in the last quarter to 18.6% in the outlook for the third quarter.

This survey of more than 500 OC business executives was conducted from June 19-23, with a response rate of approximately 14%.