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Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19 methodology

Reference period
December 2020
Released
16/12/2020

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 2 December and 9 December 2020.

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 63% (1,254 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) Is the business not trading a result of COVID-19?
 ☐  Yes [Go to Question 1c]
 ☐  No [End of survey]
  
 (c) 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
  
4(a) Thinking about the number of employees the business had this time last year, is the number of employees this business currently has…?
 ☐  About the same as this time last year
 ☐  Higher than this time last year
 ☐  Lower than this time last year
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (b) Based on current operations, does the business have a sufficient number of employees?
 ☐  Yes
 ☐  No
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (c) Please think about what is influencing the number of people employed by this business. As I read you this list can you provide a ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’ to whether these factors are influencing the number of people employed by this business? (select all that apply)
 ☐  Availability of existing employees to work
 [NOTE: Staff unavailable due to JobKeeper should be captured under ‘Government wage subsidies’]
 ☐  Inability to find suitable staff
 ☐  Difficulty retaining staff
 ☐  International and domestic border closures
 [NOTE: For example, can’t get staff from overseas or interstate]
 ☐  JobMaker Hiring Credit
 ☐  Government wage subsidies (including JobKeeper, Apprentices and Trainees)
 ☐  Are there any other factors that are influencing the number of people employed by this business? (please specify)
  
 (d) Again, thinking about what is influencing the number of people employed by this business. As I read you this list can you provide a ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’ to whether any operational or process changes are influencing the number of people employed by this business? (select all that apply)
 ☐  Is scaling back of business operations influencing the number of people employed by this business?
 [NOTE: Scaling back refers to reducing the size of the business or output]
 ☐  Is scaling up of business operations influencing the number of people employed by this business?
 [NOTE: Scaling up refers to increasing the size of the business or output]
 ☐  Have any changes been made to the way this business undertakes its activities that are influencing the number of people employed by this business?
 [NOTE: This refers to a change in the business’s methods of undertaking business activities]
 ☐  Have any changes been made to the business structure that are influencing the number of people employed by this business?
 [NOTE: This refers to a restructure within the business, such as changes in job roles, decentralisation, integration or de-integration of departments, first use of outsourcing or sub-contracting, etc]
 ☐  Are there any other operational or process changes influencing the number of people employed by this business? (please specify)
  
 (e) Are there any jobs the business is having difficulty finding suitably skilled or qualified staff for?
 ☐  Yes
 ☐  No [Go to Question 4g]
 ☐  Don't know [Go to Question 4g]
  
 (f) Can you tell me what jobs the business is having difficulty finding suitably skilled or qualified staff for?
 [NOTE: All jobs are in scope for this question]
 [NOTE: Interviewer coded response]
  
 (g) Over the next three months, does the business plan to take any of the following actions in relation to its workforce? (select all that apply)
 ☐  Re-employ laid off staff
 ☐  Employ new staff
 ☐  Reduce staff hours
 ☐  Increase staff hours
 ☐  Reduce staff numbers
 ☐ Outsource work to a third party
 ☐  Re-train or upskill existing staff to fill skills gaps
 ☐  Are there any other actions the business plans to take in relation to its workforce? (please specify)