RALEIGH — If you were expecting a quick economic rebound from COVID-19, think again.

Of 737 companies recently surveyed across a 14-county region across the Triangle and central North Carolina, representing a mix of industries and business sizes, only 56.7 percent  percent indicated they planned to grow their businesses over the next three years.

Compare that to 74 percent of companies that projected growth in 2017 — roughly an 18 percent drop.

As of May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 107,000 people unemployed in the Raleigh and Durham-Chapel Hill metro areas.

“The regional economy will recover, but job growth is going to be slower than expected, and it’s going to be uneven,” said RTI International Mike Hogan, RTI International research economist, during the during the Economic Summit series held virtually this week. “The abrupt shutdown is really devastating to jobs in restaurant, hospitality and retail.”

Hogan was recapping results from the Regional Skills Analysis Survey launched in March. Initiated by the Raleigh Chamber, Wake County Economic Development, Capital Area Workforce Development, and the City of Raleigh, in conjunction with RTI International, it was originally designed as a follow-up to the 2017 Triangle Talent Initiative.

However, organizers quickly changed tact in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, re-framing the survey as a tool to inform economic recovery.

Breaking it down by sector, however, it’s not all gloomy.

Life sciences, IT, manufacturing and healthcare still expect to grow their workforce at high rates — between roughly 61-87 percent. Continued demand is expected for positions such as software programmers, nurses, and front-line production workers.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see that,” Hogan said. “There are some real challenges around jobs and hiring, but seeing that there is optimism coming from employers is a good surprise. This pandemic is showing that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

On the flip side: Employers in utilities, public sector, education, restaurants, hospitality, and retail have a negative outlook on job growth, with only 43 percent responding they planned to grow.

Loss of tax revenue and nonprofit fundraising will have long-term implications, Hogan said.

Other interesting insights: Companies are more frequently looking to alternative credentials for hiring — with 39 percent of companies seeking degrees from four-year colleges, compared to 49 percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, employers continue to have a positive evaluation of the regional talent pipeline, rating it on average a 3.15 out of 5. The highest ratings came from the life science and IT industries.

Hogan was quick to point out this is a “pulse survey.”

“It’s not a statistically representative sample of all businesses in the region, or in the state. But what it does give us is a snapshot of the current state of how businesses are proceeding.”