Sales are off, costs are soaring. For some small-business owners, the recession has already arrived

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President Biden and Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell insist the country can avoid a recession, but don’t try telling that to small business owners already facing sliding sales amid soaring inflation. For many of them, the hard times are already here.

Jorge Aurichi, who owns Level Five Painting in Newton, sensed the economy shifting in March when gas prices surged after Russia invaded Ukraine. Even though spring and summer are prime seasons for painting, Aurichi noticed a 20 percent drop in calls from prospective clients compared with last spring.

He expected his business to grow in 2022, but now he forecasts flat revenue for the year, even ascosts for labor, paint, and gas soar.One example: A gallon of oil-based primer that two months ago cost $24 is now $33. That’s on top of a nearly 25 percent increase in the price of gas for his fleet of trucks and vans since last year.

“If we open our eyes, the recession is here already,” said Aurichi.

Similarly, Leodalys Montero, who owns D’laly’s Beauty Salon in Dorchester and Roxbury, says her business is slowing, with revenue off by 30 percent in May alone. Fewer customers are coming in to get their hair done as they struggle to keep up with the higher costs of groceries and gas. Worried about a downturn, Montero sold her Jamaica Plain shop in May and is paying herself less.

Still, Montero had no choice but to raise prices two weeks ago because the costs of shampoo and conditioners have been going up. A wash and set now costs $40, a $5 increase.

“My customers are watching the dollars even more. I don’t blame anyone,” she said. “I want to be optimistic [but] I have a lot of fears with this economy.”

Only 44 percent of economists in a recent Wall Street Journal survey indicate there could be a recession over the next year, which is defined as a significant decline in economic activity across sectors that lasts more than a few months. That’s because fundamentals remain solid. The economy appears to be growing, and consumers also still have excess cash they saved during the pandemic.

By Shirley Leung

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