Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia methodology

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Reference period
March 2023

Explanatory notes


This publication contains estimates of actual and expected new capital expenditure by private businesses for selected industries in Australia. The series have been compiled from data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in its quarterly Survey of New Capital Expenditure.

Scope and coverage

The Survey of New Capital Expenditure includes the following industries classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, ANZSIC, 2006:

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 survey excludes the following industries: Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (Division A), Public Administration and Safety (Division O) and Superannuation Funds (Class 6330).
  • 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 of New Capital Expenditure, like most ABS economic collections, takes its frame from Employing and Non-Employing Units on the ABS Business Register which is primarily based on ABN registrations to the Australian Business Register, which is managed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The frame is updated quarterly to take account of new businesses and changes in the characteristics of businesses, such as industry and size.
  • Businesses which have ceased employing are identified when the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) cancels their Australian Business Number (ABN) registration. In addition, businesses which do not remit for Goods and Services Tax and/or Income Tax Withholding purposes for the previous five quarters, are removed from the frame.
  • As noted, the Survey frame 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. While there are a substantial number of these businesses, it is expected that they would not contribute significantly to the estimates, although the impact would vary from industry to industry.

Statistical unit

  • In the Survey of New Capital Expenditure, 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 (cat. no. 1218.0).

Survey methodology

  • The survey is conducted on a quarterly basis. It is based on a random sample of approximately 10,000 units which is stratified by industry, state/territory and derived employment size. The figures obtained from the selected units are supplemented by data from units which have large capital expenditure and are outside the sample framework, or not adequately covered by it.
  • Respondents are asked to provide data on the same basis as their own management accounts. Where a selected unit does not respond in a given survey period, a value is estimated. If data are subsequently provided, the estimated value is replaced with reported data. Aggregates are calculated from all data using the ‘number raised’ estimation technique. Data is edited at both individual unit level and at aggregate level.

Timing and construction of the survey cycle

Surveys are conducted in respect of each quarter and returns are completed in the 8 or 9 week period after the end of the quarter to which the survey data relate (e.g. March quarter survey returns are completed during April and May).

  • Businesses are requested to provide 3 basic figures each survey:
  1. Actual expenditure incurred during the reference period (Act)
  2. A short term expectation (E1) and a longer term expectation (E2).
  • This survey cycle facilitates the formation of estimates of expenditure for financial years (12 months ending 30 June). For example for 2023-24:
  1. the first estimate was available from the December 2022 survey as a longer term expectation (E2)
  2. the second estimate was available from the March 2023 survey (again as a longer term expectation)
  3. the third estimate was available from the June 2023 survey as the sum of two expectations (E1 + E2)
  4. in the September 2023, December 2023 and March 2024 surveys the fourth, fifth and sixth estimates, respectively, are derived from the sum of actual expenditure (for that part of the year completed) and expected expenditure (for the remainder of the year) as recorded in the current quarter's survey
  5. the final (or seventh) estimate from the June quarter 2023 survey is derived from the sum of the actual expenditure for each of the four quarters in the 2023-24 financial year.
  • Businesses are requested to provide actual expenditure data by state/territory each quarter. Prior to 2002, businesses were also asked to provide expected expenditure data by state/territory each December quarter. Since 2002 state/territory expectations data for businesses which operate in more than one state or territory are pro-rated to states/territories based on actual expenditure for the December quarter in each state or territory. Expectations data for businesses operating within a single state/territory are allocated to that state/territory. Expectations for businesses which report no actual expenditure for the December quarter are split equally among the states in which the businesses are known to operate.
  • Expectations data by state/territory are only released in December quarters and are available on the ABS Website in the Data downloads section.

Sample revision

  • The survey frames and samples are revised each quarter to ensure that they remain representative of the survey population. The timing for creating each quarter's survey frame is consistent with that of other ABS business surveys. This provides for greater consistency when comparing data across surveys.
  • Additionally, with these revisions to the sample, some of the units from the sampled sector are rotated out of the survey and are replaced by others to spread the reporting workload equitably.
  • Adjustments are included in the estimates to allow for lags in processing new businesses to the ABS Business Register, and the omission of some businesses from the register. The majority of businesses affected and to which adjustments apply are small in size. As an indication of the size of these adjustments, in the December quarter 2022 they represented about 0.5% of the total estimate of actual new capital expenditure.

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 (cat. no. 1292.0).
  • In order to classify new capital expenditure by industry, each statistical unit (as defined above) is classified to the (ANZSIC) industry in which it mainly operates.

Chain volume measures

  • The chain volume measures appearing in this publication are annually reweighted chain Laspeyres indexes referenced to current price values in the chosen reference year (currently 2022-23). The current price values may be thought to be the product of a price and quantity. The value in chain volume terms can be derived by linking together movements in volumes, calculated using the average prices of the previous financial year and applying compound movements to the current price estimates of the reference year. Each year's quarter-to-quarter growth rates in the chain volume series are based on the prices of the previous financial year, except for those quarters of the latest incomplete year which are based upon the second most recent financial year. Quarterly chain volume estimates for a financial year sum to the corresponding annual estimate.
  • With each release of the September quarter issue of this publication, a new base year is introduced and the reference year is advanced one year to coincide with it. With the release of the September quarter 2022 issue of this publication, the chain volume measures currently have 2020-21 as their base year rather than 2019-20.
  • A change in the reference year changes levels but not growth rates for all periods. A change in the base year can result in revisions, small in most cases, to growth rates for the last year.
  • Chain volume measures are not generally additive. In other words, component chain volume measures do not, in general, sum to a total in the way original current price components do. For capital expenditure data, this means that the original chain volume estimates for the states will not add to total capital expenditure for Australia. In order to minimise the impact of this, the ABS uses the latest base year as the reference year. By adopting this approach, additivity does exist for the quarters following the reference year and non-additivity is relatively small for the quarters in the reference year and those immediately preceding it. For further information on chain volume measures refer to Information Paper: Introduction of Chain Volume Measures in the Australian National Accounts (cat. no. 5248.0)

Derivation and usefulness of realisation ratios

  • Once actual expenditure for a financial year is known, it is useful to investigate the relationship between each of the prior six estimates of expenditure for that financial year and the actual expenditure. The resultant realisation ratios (subsequent actual expenditure divided by expected expenditure) then indicate how much expenditure was actually incurred against the amount expected to be incurred at the various times of reporting. Realisation ratios can also be formed separately for three or six month expectations as well as the 12 month E2 estimates or combinations of estimates containing at least some expectation components (e.g. six months actual and six months expected expenditure).
  • Realisation ratios provide an important tool in understanding and interpreting expectation statistics for future periods. The application of realisation ratios enables the adjustment of expectation data for known under (or over) realisation patterns in the past and hence provides a valid basis for comparison with other expectation data and actual expenditure estimates. Once this has been done the predictions can be more validly compared with each other and with previously derived estimates of actual expenditure for earlier years. For example, if one wished to make a prediction about actual expenditure for 2021-22 based on March 2021 survey results and compare this with 2020-21 expenditure, it is necessary to apply the relevant realisation factors to the expectations to put both estimates on the same basis.
  • There are many ways in which realisation ratios can be applied to make predictions of actual expenditure for a future period.
  • In using realisation ratios to adjust expectations data, attention should be paid to the range of values that has occurred in the past. A wide range of values is indicative of volatility in the realisation patterns and hence greater caution should be exercised regarding the predictive value of the expectation, even after adjustment by application of realisation ratios. This is particularly the case with the early 12 month expectations for the following financial year collected in the December and March surveys.

Reliability of the estimates

  • Estimates provided in this publication are subject to non-sampling and sampling errors. The most common way of quantifying sampling error is to calculate the standard error for the published estimate. Details of standard errors are included in the appendix.
  • Estimates that have an estimated relative standard error between 10% and 25% are annotated with the symbol '^' . These estimates should be used with caution as they are subject to sampling variability too high for some purposes. Estimates with an RSE between 25% and 50% are annotated with the symbol '*', indicating that the estimate should be used with caution as it is subject to sampling variability too high for most practical purposes. Estimates with an RSE greater than 50% are annotated with the symbol '**' indicating that the sampling variability causes the estimates to be considered too unreliable for general use. These annotations have only been applied to estimates from the March quarter 2009.
  • Non-sampling errors may arise as a result of errors in the reporting, recording or processing of the data and can occur even if there is a complete enumeration of the population. These errors can be introduced through inadequacies in the questionnaire, treatment of non-response, inaccurate reporting by respondents, errors in the application of survey procedures, incorrect recording of answers, and errors in data entry and processing.
  • Estimates for the latest quarter presented in this publication are considered preliminary and revised estimates will be released with the next issue. As discussed below, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates are also subject to revision as data are revised and more data become available.
  • It is difficult to measure the size of non-sampling errors. However, every effort is made in the design of the survey and development of survey procedures to minimise their effects. In addition, respondents may have difficulties in allocating to the appropriate state(s) expenditure on some equipment items such as mobile assets (e.g. aircraft, bulk oil carriers, satellites, off-shore drilling platforms and large computer installations supporting a national network). Where such difficulties exist expenditure is allocated to the state of the businesses' head office or, in the case of aircraft, is allocated across states in proportion to the likely use of the asset.
  • The Australian equivalents to International Financial Reporting Standards (AIFRS) were progressively implemented in Australia from 1 January 2005. As a result, a number of items in the financial accounts of Australian businesses were affected by changed definitions which in turn impacted upon both Income Statements and Balance Sheets. A range of ABS economic collections source data from financial accounts of businesses and use those data to derive economic statistics. There have been no changes in the associated economic definitions.
  • After monitoring data items in the immediate years following March quarter 2005 it was concluded that most affected published data series were impacted by data breaks but that the magnitude of such breaks could not be determined without imposing disproportionate load upon data providers to ABS surveys and other administratively collected data.

Seasonal adjustment

  • The quarterly original actual new capital expenditure series are affected in varying degrees by seasonal influences. The seasonal adjustment process estimates and removes the effects of normal seasonal variations from the original series so that the effects of other influences can be more easily recognised.
  • In the seasonal adjustment process, account has been taken of normal seasonal factors (e.g. increase in June quarter capital expenditure due to the impending end of the financial year) to produce the seasonally adjusted estimates. Particular care should be taken in interpreting quarterly movements in the seasonally adjusted estimates because seasonal adjustment does not remove the effect of irregular or non-seasonal influences (e.g. change in interest rates) and reflects the sampling and other errors to which the original estimates are subject.
  • The revision properties of the seasonally adjusted and trend estimates can be improved by the use of Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) modelling. The Survey of Private New Capital Expenditure uses ARIMA modelling where appropriate for individual time series. ARIMA modelling relies on the characteristics of the series being analysed to project future period data. The projected values are temporary, intermediate values that are only used internally to improve the estimation of the seasonal factors. The projected data do not affect the original estimates and are discarded at the end of the seasonal adjustment process. For more information on the details of ARIMA modelling see Feature article: Use of ARIMA modelling to reduce revisions in the October 2004 issue of Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0).

Trend estimates

  • The trend estimates are derived by applying a 7-term Henderson moving average to the seasonally adjusted estimates. The 7-term Henderson moving average is symmetric, but as the end of a time series is approached, asymmetric forms of the moving average are applied. The asymmetric moving average has been tailored to suit the particular characteristics of individual series and enable trend estimates for recent quarters to be produced. Estimates of the trend will be improved at the current end of the time series as additional observations become available. This improvement is due to the application of different asymmetric moving averages for the most recent three quarters. As a result of the improvement, revisions to the trend estimates will generally be observed for the most recent three quarters.
  • There may also be revisions because of changes in the original estimates. As a result of these revisions, the seasonally adjusted and trend estimates will also be revised. For further information, see Information Paper: A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring Trend, An Overview (cat. no. 1349.0).

Description of terms

  • A description of the terms used in this publication is given below:
  • New capital expenditure refers to the acquisition of new tangible assets either on own account or under a finance lease and includes major improvements, alterations and additions. In general, this is expenditure charged to fixed tangible assets accounts excluding expenditure on second hand assets unless these are imported for the first time.
  • Some estimates are dissected by type of asset:
  1. Buildings and structures: Includes industrial and commercial buildings, houses, flats, home units, water and sewerage installations, lifts, heating, ventilating and similar equipment forming an integral part of buildings and structures, land development and construction site development, roads, bridges, wharves, harbours, railway lines, pipelines, power and telephone lines. Also includes mine development (e.g. construction of shafts in underground mines, preparation of mining and quarrying sites for open cut extraction and other developmental operations primarily for commencing or extending production). Excludes purchases of land, previously occupied buildings and speculatively built projects intended for sale before occupation:
  2. Equipment, plant and machinery: Includes plant, machinery, vehicles, electrical apparatus, office equipment, furniture, fixtures and fittings not forming an integral part of buildings, durable containers, special tooling, etc. Also includes goods imported for the first time whether previously used outside Australia or not.

Comparison with National Accounts and other ABS statistics

  • The statistics for new capital expenditure shown in this publication differ from estimates of private gross fixed capital expenditure shown in the Australian National Accounts for the following reasons:
  • National Accounts estimates incorporate data from other sources as well as information from the new capital expenditure survey. For example, annual estimates for capital expenditure on 'machinery and equipment' are based on the ABS' annual Economic Activity Survey combined with data from the Australian Taxation Office. Quarterly estimates are interpolated between and extrapolated from the annual estimates using a variety of indicators including this survey. The ABS's quarterly Building Activity Survey and Engineering Construction Survey are the main sources for estimating the National Accounts dwellings and other buildings and structures items.
  • National Accounts estimates include capital expenditure by all private businesses including units classified to agriculture, forestry and fishing, and capital expenditure on dwellings by households. Data for these sectors are excluded from this publication.
  • National Accounts estimates include the value of work done on speculative construction projects as the work is put into place. The statistics in this publication, however, include full value of the speculative projects as new capital expenditure of the purchases (if in scope), when the project is sold.
  • National accounts estimates of gross fixed capital formation relate to acquisitions less disposals of new or existing fixed assets, whereas the survey figures are acquisitions of new fixed tangible assets only.
  • For a more detailed explanation of the concepts and methods used in compiling the National Accounts estimates see Australian National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5216.0).
  • The estimates of capital expenditure on buildings and other structures will differ with estimates of Construction activity published in Construction Work Done, Australia, Preliminary (cat. no. 8755.0). The latter publication presents estimates of building and engineering construction work collected by the Building Activity Survey and the Engineering Construction Survey. Estimates of construction activity are based on the value of actual work done during the quarter of individual building or construction jobs by builders, and do not necessarily equate to capitalisation of this work by the builders' eventual clients. Estimates of capital expenditure in this publication are based on data reported by businesses (that is, the builders' clients) from their financial or management accounts for purchases of buildings and structures.

ABS data available on request

  • More detailed industry and state information may be made available on request, the cost for such a service being dependent upon the amount of data requested. For example, data are generally available at the ANZSIC subdivision (2 digit) level.


  • ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
  • The results of these statistics are based, in part, on ABR data supplied by the Registrar to the ABS under A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 and tax data supplied by the ATO to the ABS under the Taxation Administration Act 1953. These require that such data is only used for the purpose of carrying out functions of the ABS. No individual information collected under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 is provided back to the Registrar or the ATO for administrative or regulatory purposes. Any discussion of data limitations or weaknesses is in the context of using the data for statistical purposes, and is not related to the ability of the data to support the ABR or ATO’s core operational requirements. Legislative requirements to ensure privacy and secrecy of this data have been followed. Only people authorised under the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 have been allowed to view data about any particular firm in conducting these analyses. In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, results have been confidentialised to ensure that they are not likely to enable identification of a particular person or organisation.

Appendix - sampling errors

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