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PPP loans roughly in line with industry payrolls, but some stand out

By Howard Schneider

July 6 (Reuters) – Paycheck Protection Program loans to restaurants and hotels fell short of their share of small-business employment, according to details on the program released Monday by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration.

The food and accommodation sector was among the hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and one motivation for the rapid approval of the roughly $650 billion program of forgivable loans was fear that staple companies like the corner pizza joint would be forced out of business without assistance.

The data released on Monday included an updated breakdown by industry and showed that through June 30, food and accommodation firms had received just over 8% of the $521 billion in PPP loans made so far, or around $42 billion.

According to the 2017 Statistics of U.S. Businesses, the most recent available from the U.S. Census, companies in that industry accounted for just over 14% of employment among firms with 500 or fewer workers – the general cutoff for PPP loans.

The industry fared better when using payrolls as a yardstick. Food and accommodation firms, which generally fall on the lower end of the wage scale, accounted for less than 6% of small business payrolls, according to census data.

Retail companies, another sector hard-hit by social distancing and other measures imposed to control the spread of the virus, followed a similar pattern – receiving 7.7% or PPP loans compared to providing more than 9% of small business employment and under 7% of small business payrolls.

The construction and manufacturing industries both received slightly more in loans than they accounted for in either small business employment or payroll.

The data will likely feed into the ongoing debate in Congress about further assistance to families and firms to ease the economic fallout from the pandemic. An estimated 14.6 million jobs have been lost since over two months of pandemic-related employment declines in March and April, and a rebound in May and June.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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