SALEM — Oregon small-business owners are more optimistic about the future than they have been at any point since the pandemic began.

Nearly three-quarters of Oregon businesses expect they’ll be back to “normal” operations in six months or sooner, according to the latest tally of a weekly survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s twice as many as last August.

A fifth of businesses say they have already returned to normal operations.

The data from the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey is another indication that Oregon’s economy is well on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

Oregon businesses are now slightly more upbeat, according to the survey, than the national average. Oregon businesses owners had been a tad more pessimistic for most of the recession.

Pandemic shutdowns were especially rough on small businesses, which can’t afford the reserves that large corporations sometimes accumulate. The pandemic wiped out scores of popular Oregon restaurants and bars, along with popular attractions like ice rinks and bowling alleys.

But federal aid in the form of grants, loans and stimulus payments kept many other firms afloat. Relatively few businesses failed, according to state data. And bankruptcies actually fell last year.

With vaccines proliferating and the virus fading, Oregon formally reopened June 30. Most restrictions are gone, so businesses can now operate as they did before the pandemic.

The damage from a tumultuous 15 months won’t disappear immediately, though, and COVID-19 will continue to take a toll on businesses so long as consumers remain wary of the disease. But businesses’ rising optimism underscores that the steepest, deepest downturn in Oregon history wasn’t nearly as bad as economists feared.

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