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Business Conditions and Sentiments methodology

Reference period
March 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 March and 17 March 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% (1,275 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.

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
  
4Over the next three months, how difficult or easy will it be for this business to meet its financial commitments? Will it be…
 [NOTE: Financial commitments include any debts or regular payments that must be made by the business]
 ☐  Very difficult
 ☐  Difficult
 ☐  Neither difficult nor easy
 ☐  Easy
 ☐  Very easy
 ☐  Not applicable, business does not have any financial commitments over the next three months
 ☐  Don't know
  
5NOTE: Question 5 is answered by employing businesses only (i.e. those that selected 'yes' to Question 2)
 (a) Based on current operations, does the business have a sufficient number of employees?
 ☐  Yes [Go to Question 5c]
 ☐  No [Go to Question 5b]
 ☐  Don't know [Go to Question 5c]
  
 (b) You indicated the business does not have a sufficient number of employees. Are any of the following influencing how many staff this business currently has employed? (tick all that apply)
 ☐  Availability of existing employees to work​​​​​
 ☐  Inability to find suitable staff
 ☐  Difficulty retaining staff
 ☐  International border closures (e.g. can’t get staff from overseas)
 ☐  Domestic border closures (e.g. can’t get staff from interstate)
 ☐  Affordability of additional staff
 ☐  Uncertainty due to COVID-19
 ☐  Are there any other factors that are influencing the number of people employed by this business?
  
 (c) Over the next three months, does the business plan to take any of the following actions in relation to its workforce? (tick all that apply)
 ☐  Increase staff numbers [Go to Question 5d and 5e if selected]
 ☐  Reduce staff numbers 
 ☐  Increase staff hours 
 ☐  Reduce staff hours  
 ☐  Outsource work to a third party 
 ☐  Re-train existing staff 
 ☐  Rearrange job roles and responsibilities 
 ☐  Are there any other actions the business plans to take in relation to its workforce over the next 3 months?
  
 (d) You indicated the business plans to increase staff numbers over the next three months. How would you describe the expected increase in staff numbers over the next three months? Will the increase be… (tick one box only)
 ☐  Large
 ☐  Moderate
 ☐  Small
 ☐  Don’t know
  
 (e) You indicated the business plans to increase staff numbers over the next three months. Will the jobs be… (tick all that apply)
 [NOTE: Includes both full-time and part-time employees]
 ☐  Permanent
 ☐  Casual (e.g. casual employees usually receive a higher rate of pay to compensate for the lack of paid leave entitlements)
 ☐  Temporary or fixed term contract  
  
6(a) Is the business currently accessing any of the following business support measures? (tick all that apply)
 ☐  Deferred loan repayments
 ☐  Renegotiated property rent/lease arrangements
 ☐  JobMaker Hiring Credit
 ☐  Government Wage subsidies (e.g. JobKeeper, Supporting Apprentices and Trainees)
 ☐  Other government support measures
 ☐  Other support measures
  
 NOTE: Question 6b is answered by businesses that select at least one support measure in Question 6a
 (b) Does this business expect to take any of the following actions when these support measures are no longer available? (tick all that apply)
 ☐  Reduce the number of staff
 ☐  Reduce staff hours
 ☐  Change product or service options
 ☐  Change quantity of orders of inputs (e.g. stock, raw materials)
 ☐  Change payment terms with customers or suppliers
 ☐  Increase prices
 ☐  Defer or cancel investment plans
 ☐  Sell assets
 ☐  Seek additional funds (includes funds from financial institution, personal line of credit or savings, family or friends, other businesses or individuals)
 ☐  Renegotiate loan terms with lenders
 ☐  Close business, business will not be viable without current support measures
 ☐  Does this business expect to take any other actions when support measures are no longer available?