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Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19 methodology, September 2020

Reference period
September 2020
Released
24/09/2020

Explanatory notes

Introduction

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 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 September and 16 September 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.

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% (1,279 responding businesses).

The sample used in the September 2020 Survey was the same sample of 2,000 units used in the July and August 2020 Surveys. Approximately 77% of the responding businesses in September were responding units in August.

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 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.

Technical note - Questionnaire

Business Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

  
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 Q3]
 ☐  No [End of survey]
  
2(a) Is the business currently trading under modified conditions, as a result of COVID-19?
 [NOTE: Operating under modified conditions as a result of COVID-19, may include, but are not limited to; changes to products and services and how they are provided to customers, workforce changes, new hygiene protocols, changes to suppliers, and limiting occupancy]
 ☐  Yes, as a result of COVID-19
 ☐  No, business is trading as normal or has modified conditions not due to COVID-19 [Go to Q3]
  
 (b) Thinking of those modified conditions, can you tell me if the business has made any of the following modifications to its operations? Has the business… (select all that apply)
 ☐  Changed the types and range of products and services offered by the business
 ☐  Changed the way products or services are provided to customers (e.g. shifted more operations online, offering home delivery, no face to face contact with customers)
 ☐  Changed operating hours including opening by appointment only
 ☐  Changed suppliers or supply chain
 ☐  Changed staff roles or duties
  
 (c) Still thinking of those modifications that the business made, can you tell me whether any of those are expected to remain in place long-term? (select all that apply)
 [NOTE: Long-term refers to modifications that are expected to remain in place beyond the current restrictions and business conditions (i.e. for more than 6 months)]
 ☐  Changed the types and range of products and services offered by the business
 ☐  Changed the way products or services are provided to customers (e.g. shifted more operations online, offering home delivery, no face to face contact with customers)
 ☐  Changed operating hours including opening by appointment only
 ☐  Changed suppliers or supply chain
 ☐  Changed staff roles or duties
  
3Does this business employ any staff?
 [NOTE: This includes all employees on the books and not currently working]
 ☐  Yes
 ☐  No
  
4(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]
 ☐  Increase
 ☐  Decrease
 ☐  No change
 ☐  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
 ☐  No change
 ☐  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]
 ☐  Increase
 ☐  Decrease
 ☐  No change
 ☐  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
 ☐  No change
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (e) Over the past month, have the number of employees increased, decreased or stayed the same?
 ☐  Increase
 ☐  Decrease
 ☐  No change
 ☐  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
 ☐  No change
 ☐  Don't know
  
5Once restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise does the business expect any of the following to increase, decrease, or stay the same? (select all that apply)
 ☐  Number of hours worked by staff
 ☐  Proportion of casual staff
 [NOTE: As a proportion of the business’s total workforce]
 [NOTE: Casual employees usually receive a higher rate of pay to compensate for the lack of paid leave entitlements]
 ☐  Proportion of permanent staff
 [NOTE: As a proportion of the business’s total workforce]
 ☐  Proportion of fixed term contract staff
 [NOTE: As a proportion of the business’s total workforce]
 ☐  Outsourcing work to a third-party
  
6(a) Prior to COVID-19, on an average day what percentage of the business’s workforce was teleworking or working remotely?
 [NOTE: Excludes staff solely checking and responding to emails only]
 ☐  None
 ☐  Less than 25 per cent
 ☐  25 to less than 50 per cent
 ☐  50 to less than 75 per cent
 ☐  75 to 100 per cent
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (b) What percentage of this business’s workforce are currently teleworking or working remotely?
 [NOTE: Excludes staff solely checking and responding to emails only]
 ☐  None
 ☐  Less than 25 per cent
 ☐  25 to less than 50 per cent
 ☐  50 to less than 75 per cent
 ☐  75 to 100 per cent
 ☐  Don't know
  
 (c) Once restrictions are lifted and conditions stabilise what percentage of this business’s workforce is expected to continue to telework or work remotely?
 [NOTE: Excludes staff solely checking and responding to emails only]
 ☐  None
 ☐  Less than 25 per cent
 ☐  25 to less than 50 per cent
 ☐  50 to less than 75 per cent
 ☐  75 to 100 per cent
 ☐  Don't know