Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19 methodology

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Reference period
August 2020

Explanatory notes


This publication provides insights into the impacts and sentiments of businesses operating in Australia under the changing social and economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the seventh release of data from the survey.

This release forms part of a suite of additional products that the ABS is producing to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on the Australian economy and society.

For more information refer to

Scope and coverage

The COVID-19 Business Indicators Survey includes information on the following industries classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, ANZSIC,

  • Mining (Division B)
  • Manufacturing (Division C)
  • Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services (Division D)
  • Construction (Division E)
  • Wholesale Trade (Division F)
  • Retail Trade (Division G)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (Division H)
  • Transport, Postal and Warehousing (Division I)
  • Information Media and Telecommunications (Division J)
  • Finance and Insurance (Division K, excluding ANZSIC class 6330, Superannuation Funds)
  • Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services (Division L)
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (Division M)
  • Administrative and Support Services (Division N)
  • Education and Training (Division P)
  • Health Care and Social Assistance (Division Q)
  • Arts and Recreation Services (Division R)
  • Other Services (Division S)

The scope excludes public sector business units (i.e. all departments, authorities and other organisations owned and controlled by Commonwealth, State and Local Government).

The survey includes Employing and Non-Employing Units on the ABS Business Register. However, micro non-employing businesses are excluded. These are very small units on the ABS Business Register, by standard measures of size.

Statistical unit

The statistical unit used to represent businesses, and for which statistics are reported, is the Australian Business Number (ABN) unit, in most cases. The ABN unit is the business unit which has registered for an ABN, and thus appears on the ATO administered Australian Business Register. This unit is suitable for ABS statistical needs when the business is simple in structure.

For more significant and diverse businesses where the ABN unit is not suitable for ABS statistical needs, the statistical unit used is the Type of Activity Unit (TAU). A TAU is comprised of one or more business entities, sub-entities or branches of a business entity within an Enterprise Group that can report production and employment data for similar economic activities. When a minimum set of data items is available, a TAU is created which covers all the operations within an industry subdivision (and the TAU is classified to the relevant subdivision of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC)). Where a business cannot supply adequate data for each industry, a TAU is formed which contains activity in more than one industry subdivision and the TAU is classified to the predominant ANZSIC subdivision. Further details about the ABS economic statistical units used in this survey, and in other ABS economic surveys (both sample surveys and censuses), can be found in Chapter 2 of the Standard Economic Sector Classifications of Australia (SESCA) 2008 (cat. no. 1218.0).

Survey methodology

The survey is based on a random sample of approximately 2,000 units stratified by industry and employment size. The final response rate was 60% (1,202 responding businesses).

The sample used in the August 2020 Survey was the same sample of 2,000 units used in the July 2020 Survey. Approximately 65% of the responding businesses in August were responding units in July.

The survey was conducted from one week after Melbourne moved to Stage 4 restrictions. State and territory estimates are not available however, the response rate for businesses based in Victoria was in line with the response rate for all businesses.

The survey sample is re-weighted to adjust for non-response and provide full population estimates.

Classification by industry

The Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) has been developed for use in both countries for the production and analysis of industry statistics. For more information, users are referred to Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (cat. no. 1292.0).

Reliability of the estimates

When interpreting these results, please note that there may be systematic bias in these estimates that statistical procedures would not correct. In particular, estimates of the prevalence of adversely affected businesses may be an underestimate if businesses have typically not responded because they have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

Data collection

The collection was conducted through a telephone based business survey between 12 August and 19 August 2020.

Notes on capital expenditure

There are conceptual differences in the information related to capital expenditure collected in the Business Impacts of COVID-19 Survey and the ABS Survey of New Capital Expenditure (Cat. No. 5625.0).

Key differences are summarised in the table below.

 Business Impacts of COVID-19 SurveyABS Survey of New Capital Expenditure (a)
Definition of capital expenditure- Includes new and used capital - Includes IT software as well as hardware- Includes only new capital - Excludes IT software
Timing- August 2020- June quarter 2020
Reference period used- Questions asked about actual and planned expenditure compared to three months ago and intentions over the next three months- Actual new capital expenditure for the June quarter - Expected new capital expenditure for the next 12 months
Information collected- Categorical- Dollar value of new capital expenditure by asset type
Estimates presented- Proportions of businesses- Total value of new capital expenditure Percentage change in total

a. 5625.0 - Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia, Mar 2020

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