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Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19 methodology

Reference period
November 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 4 November and 11 November 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 65% (1,309 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 New Capital Expenditure (Cat. No. 5625.0). 

 

Questionnaire

Show all

 
1(a) Is your 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
 ☐  No [End of survey]
  
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)(i) Over the past month, have the number of employees increased, decreased or stayed the same?
 ☐  Increased [Go to Question 3e(ii)]
 ☐  Decreased [Go to Question 3e(iii)]
 ☐  Stayed the same
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (e)(ii) You indicated the number of employees has increased over the past month. Can you tell me why? For example, was it due to seasonal variation, new skills requirements, business expansion, or to replace leaving staff?
 [NOTE: Interviewer coded response]
  
 (e)(iii) You indicated the number of employees has decreased over the past month. Can you tell me why? For example, was it due to seasonal variation, downsizing of business, decreased demand, or cash flow issues?
 [NOTE: Interviewer coded response]
  
 (f)(i) And over the next month, do you expect the number of employees will increase, decrease or stay the same?
 ☐  Increase [Go to Question 3f(ii)]
 ☐  Decrease [Go to Question 3f(iii)]
 ☐  Stay the same
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (f)(ii) You indicated that you expect the number of employees to increase over the next month. Can you tell me why? For example, is it due to seasonal variation, new skills requirements, business expansion, or to replace leaving staff?
 [NOTE: Interviewer coded response]
  
 (f)(iii) You indicated that you expect the number of employees to decrease over the next month. Can you tell me why? For example, is it due to seasonal variation, downsizing of business, decreased demand, or cash flow issues?
 [NOTE: Interviewer coded response]
  
4(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?
 ☐  Yes
 ☐  No [Go to Question 4d]
 ☐  Don't know [End of survey]
  
 (c) You indicated the business has planned capital expenditure on new or used assets for the next 3 months. Is the planned expenditure…?
 ☐  Higher than what is usual for this time of year [Go to Question 4e]
 ☐  The same as what is usual is this time of year [Go to Question 4e]
 ☐  Lower than what is usual for this time of year [Go to Question 4e]
 ☐  Don't know [Go to Question 4e]
  
 (d) You indicated the business does not have planned capital expenditure on new or used assets for the next 3 months. Is this because…? (select all that apply)
 [NOTE: Examples of new or used assets include vehicles, machinery and equipment, buildings and other structures]
 ☐  Plans were cancelled [Go to Question 4f]
 ☐  Plans were deferred [Go to Question 4f]
 ☐  Business had no plans [Go to Question 4f]
  
 (e) Which of the following types of assets does the business intend to purchase over the next 3 months? (select all that apply)
 [NOTE: Examples of new or used assets include vehicles, machinery and equipment, buildings and other structures]
 ☐  IT hardware or software
 ☐  Registered road vehicles (excluding heavy machinery (haul trucks, etc))
 [Note: Heavy machinery (haul trucks, etc) are included under other equipment or machinery]
 ☐  Other equipment or machinery (e.g. office equipment, furniture assets, hand and power tools, forklifts, pumps)
 ☐  Buildings and other structures
 ☐  Other assets (please specify)
  
 (f) Have any of the following factors significantly influenced this business’s capital expenditure on new or used assets for the next 3 months? (select all that apply)
 [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. Instant Asset Write-Off, Temporary Full Expensing)
 [NOTE: In response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, from 12 March 2020 until 31 December 2020 the Instant Asset Write Off scheme for businesses was expanded from assets worth $30,000 to include assets worth up to $150, 000. Business eligibility has also increased from an aggregated turnover of less than $50 million to less than $500 million. As part of the 2020-21 budget, extension of the expanded Instant Asset Write-off to 30 June 2021 and an additional ‘Temporary Full Expensing’ tax incentive was announced. Under the proposed ‘Temporary Full Expensing’, eligible businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $5 billion can deduct the full cost of new eligible assets]
 ☐  Other Government support measures (including Boosting Cash Flow for Employers, Government backed-business loans, Backing business investment – accelerated depreciation, Loss Carry Back regime)
 ☐  Uncertainty about the future state of the economy
 ☐  Investment made to modify the business in response to COVID-19
 ☐  Other factors (please specify)