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Business Conditions and Sentiments methodology

Reference period
February 2021
Released
26/02/2021

This publication provides insights into the conditions and sentiments of Australian businesses. Data has been collected since March 2020. 

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 https://www.abs.gov.au/covid-19.

How the data is collected

The collection was conducted through a telephone based business survey between 10 February and 17 February 2021.

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.

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 64% (1,281 responding 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.

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 may be subject to non-response bias.

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 Private New Capital Expenditure (Cat. No. 5625.0). 

Questionnaire

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1(a) Is this business currently trading?
 ☐  Yes [Go to Question 2]
 ☐  No [Go to Question 1b]
  
 (b) Can you please give me more information about what has happened with the trading of this business?
 [NOTE: Interviewer coded response]
  
2Does this business employ any staff?
 [NOTE: This includes all employees on the books and not currently working]
 ☐  Yes
 ☐  No
  
3(a) Over the past month, has revenue increased, decreased or stayed the same? 
 [NOTE: Revenue refers to income generated from the sale of goods or services]
 ☐  Increased
 ☐  Decreased
 ☐  Stayed the same
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (b) And over the next month, do you expect revenue will increase, decrease or stay the same? 
 [NOTE: Revenue refers to income generated from the sale of goods or services]
 ☐  Increase
 ☐  Decrease
 ☐  Stay the same
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (c) Over the past month, have operating expenses increased, decreased or stayed the same? 
 [NOTE: Operating expenses refers to expenses incurred in undertaking normal business operating activities. Examples include payroll, rent, inventory cost, marketing and insurance]
 ☐  Increased
 ☐  Decreased
 ☐  Stayed the same
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (d) And over the next month, do you expect operating expenses will increase, decrease or stay the same? 
 [NOTE: Operating expenses refers to expenses incurred in undertaking normal business operating activities. Examples include payroll, rent, inventory cost, marketing and insurance]
 ☐  Increase
 ☐  Decrease
 ☐  Stay the same
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (e) Over the past month, have the number of employees increased, decreased or stayed the same? 
 ☐  Increased
 ☐  Decreased
 ☐  Stayed the same
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (f) And over the next month, do you expect the number of employees will increase, decrease or stay the same? 
 ☐  Increase
 ☐  Decrease
 ☐  Stay the same
 ☐  Don't know
  
4Are any of the following factors significantly impacting this business?
 ☐ Reduced demand for goods or services
 ☐ Supply chain uncertainty (e.g. unable to source stock or raw materials, increasing cost of inputs)
 ☐  Reduced cash flow
 ☐  Reduced access to credit or additional funds
 ☐  Staff shortages
 ☐  COVID-19 restrictions
 ☐  Changes to government support measures
 ☐  Are there any other factors significantly impacting this business?
  
5Based on the business’s current level of revenue and expenditure, how would you describe the current availability of cash on hand for this business?
 [NOTE: Cash on hand includes savings, assets that can easily be sold, and unused credit facilities]
 Currently, cash on hand should cover:
 ☐  Less than 1 month of business operations
 ☐  1 to less than 3 months
 ☐  3 to less than 6 months
 ☐  6 months or more
 ☐  Don’t know
  
6(a) Over the past 3 months, has the business sought additional funds for any purpose?
 [NOTE: Includes funds sought from banks or other financial institutions, owners’ personal line of credit or savings (e.g. redraw facility on an existing loan), owners’ family or friends, and other businesses]
 ☐  Yes [Go to Question 6b]
 ☐  No [Go to Question 6c]
 ☐  Don't know [Go to Question 7a]
  
 (b) You indicated the business has sought additional funds over the past 3 months. Was the business successful in obtaining additional funds?
 [NOTE: It is possible for businesses to have multiple applications for additional funds that are at different stages of completion. Multiple responses can be selected where this is the case]
 ☐  Yes [Go to Question 7a]
 ☐  Application still in progress [Go to Question 7a]
 ☐  No [Go to Question 7a]
 ☐  Don’t know [Go to Question 7a]
  
 (c) You indicated the business has not sought additional funds for any purpose. Is that because the business….?
 ☐  Had sufficient funds
 ☐  Had no requirements for capital expenditure or other investments
 ☐  Is unwilling to increase debt
 ☐  Could not meet debt repayments
 ☐  Is unable to meet eligibility requirements
 ☐  Are there any other reasons the business has not sought additional funds for any purpose?
  
7(a) Does this business usually have any capital expenditure this time of year?
 ☐  Yes
 ☐  No
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (b) Does the business have any planned capital expenditure on new or used assets for the next 3 months?
 [NOTE: Examples of new or used assets include vehicles, machinery and equipment, buildings and other structures.]
 ☐  Yes
 ☐  No [Go to Question 7d]
 ☐  Don't know [Go to Comments]
  
 (c) You indicated the business has planned capital expenditure on new or used assets for the next 3 months. Is the planned expenditure…?
 [NOTE: Examples of new or used assets include vehicles, machinery and equipment, buildings and other structures.]
 ☐  Higher than what is usual for this time of year
 ☐  The same as what is usual for this time of year
 ☐  Lower than what is usual for this time of year
 ☐  Don’t know
  
 (d) Have any of the following factors significantly influenced this business’ planned capital expenditure on new or used assets for the next 3 months?
 [NOTE: Examples of new or used assets include vehicles, machinery and equipment, buildings and other structures.]
 ☐  Demand for this business’s products or services
 ☐  Access to business’s own funds
 [NOTE: Business’s own funds refers to funds generated through business cash flow and profits]
 ☐  Access to external finance
 ☐  Domestic or International supply chain disruptions directly affecting the business
 ☐  Tax incentives for investment (e.g. Temporary Full Expensing, Loss Carry Back regime, Backing Business Investment – accelerated depreciation)
 ☐  Other government support measures (e.g. Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme)
 ☐  Uncertainty about the future state of the economy
 ☐  Uncertainty around COVID-19 restrictions
 ☐  Investment made to modify the business in response to COVID-19
 ☐  Are there any other factors that influenced the business’s capital expenditure on new or used assets?