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Business Conditions and Sentiments

Insights into Australian business conditions and sentiments.

Reference period
May 2021

Key statistics

  • In May, 78% of businesses reported either no change or increased revenue, which is unchanged from April.

  • 43% of businesses reported that their cash on hand could cover three months or more of business operations.

  • Since the end of March, 20% of businesses have stopped accessing support measures.

Results from the final Business Conditions and Sentiments survey will be released on June 24. For further information, please see Changes to ABS statistical work program.

In responding to the survey, businesses are asked to provide a best estimate only, without accessing records or reports.

Business size categories used in this release:

  • Small (0-19 persons employed);
  • Medium (20-199 persons employed); and
  • Large (200 or more persons employed).

For information on survey sample, response rates and the questionnaire, see Methodology.

Changes in revenue and number of employees

Businesses reported on changes in revenue and number of employees over the last month and expected changes over the next month. This information has been collected each month since July 2020.

More than three quarters (78%) of businesses reported either no change or an increase in revenue in May 2021. This is unchanged from April.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses.
(b) Businesses reported changes over the last month.

In May, 9% of businesses reported an increase in their number of employees; the same proportion of businesses are expecting an increase in their number of employees in June.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses.
(b) Businesses reported changes over the last month.
(c) Expectations for the indicated month as reported by businesses in the previous month of collection.

Cash on hand

Businesses were asked to describe the availability of cash on hand based on the business's current level of revenue and expenditure.

Cash on hand includes savings, assets that can easily be sold, and unused credit facilities. The objective of this question is to capture business perceptions of financial resilience based on conditions experienced at the time of collection.

The proportion of businesses that reported their cash on hand could cover three months or more of business operations has fallen between June 2020 (55%) and May 2021 (43%).

 

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses.

Cash on hand compared to what is usual for this time of year

A quarter (25%) of businesses reported that cash on hand was lower than usual for this time of year. Many of these businesses commented that conditions such as decreased demand, decreased revenue and COVID-19 restrictions had impacted their cash reserves over the year.

Of the 14% of businesses that reported cash on hand was higher than usual, businesses commented that positive revenue and demand conditions as well as support measures had helped sustain their cash on hand.

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Cash on hand compared to what is usual for this time of year, by employment size (a)
 Small businessesMedium businessesLarge businessesAll businesses
 %%%%
Higher than what is usual14212014
The same as what is usual50515250
Lower than what is usual25191525
Don't know1181311

(a) Proportions are of all businesses.

In May, large businesses were the most likely to report having six months or more cash on hand available (45%); compared to 27% of medium businesses and 24% of small businesses.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses.

    Length of time cash on hand could cover business operations, by top reporting industries (a)

    Length of time cash on hand could cover business operations, by top reporting industries

    Length of time cash on hand could cover business operations, by top reporting industries (a)

    Top industries with businesses that reported cash on hand could cover less than three months of business operations: Arts and recreation services (62%), Wholesale trade (60%), Transport, postal and warehousing (57%) and Construction (54%).
    Top industries with businesses that reported cash on hand could cover three months or more of business operations: Mining (67%), Information, media and telecommunications (67%), Administrative and support services (63%) and Rental, hiring and real estate services (61%).

    Support measures

    One in five (20%) businesses have stopped accessing at least one support measure since March. By type of support measure, the proportion of businesses that have stopped accessing support were:

    • Government wage subsidies (e.g. JobKeeper, Supporting Apprentices and Trainees), 17%;
    • Renegotiated property rent/lease arrangements, 4%; and
    • Deferred loan repayments, 3%.

    Extent of impact of support measures ending

    Businesses that had stopped accessing support measures provided information on the extent to which the ending of this support had adversely impacted them.

      Extent of impact of support measures ending, by employment size

      Extent of impact of support measures ending, by employment size

      Extent of impact of support measures ending, by employment size

      Extent of impact of support measures ending, by employment size:
      - For all businesses, 20% stopped accessing support measures with 23% of these impacted to a great extent
      - For small businesses, 20% stopped accessing support measures with 22% of these impacted to a great extent
      - For medium businesses, 23% stopped accessing support measures with 29% of these impacted to a great extent
      - For large businesses, 22% stopped accessing support measures with 15% of these impacted to a great extent

      Actions taken as a result of support measures ending

      Businesses that stopped accessing support measures also provided information on actions they have taken as a result of the support measures ending.

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      (a) Proportions are of businesses that had stopped accessing support measures since March 2021.
      (b) Proportions are of businesses that were accessing support measures.
      (c) For example, stock or raw materials.
      (d) Not provided as a response option in March.

      Funds sought by businesses

      8% of businesses sought additional funds over the last three months. This compares to 14% of businesses in February.

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      (a) Proportions are of all businesses.

      Businesses in the following industries were the most likely to have sought additional funds over the last three months:

      • Arts and recreation services (39%);
      • Education and training (20%);
      • Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services (19%); and
      • Mining (18%).

      Whether businesses were successful in obtaining funds

      Businesses that sought additional funds also reported whether they were successful in obtaining those funds.  About one in eight small and medium businesses (13% and 12%) that had sought additional funds reported they had not been successful in obtaining the funds.

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      Outcome of funding sought by businesses, by employment size (a)(b)(c)
       Small businessesMedium businessesLarge businessesAll businesses
       %%%%
      Business was successful in obtaining funds76678175
      Funding application still in progress10221912
      Business was not successful in obtaining funds1312013

      (a) Proportions are of businesses that sought additional funds.
      (b) Businesses could provide more than one response.
      (c) Businesses could respond 'don't know'.

      Capital expenditure

      Businesses reported on whether they usually have capital expenditure at this time of year, capital expenditure plans they have for the next three months and factors influencing future capital expenditure plans.

      Capital expenditure refers to acquisition of new or used assets e.g. vehicles, machinery and equipment, buildings and other structures.

      Planned capital expenditure compared to what is usual for this time of year

      Businesses that reported they had planned capital expenditure over the next three months provided information about whether the planned expenditure was higher, the same or lower than what is usual for this time of year. 

      Of the 17% of businesses that had capital expenditure plans over the next three months, 90% expect to spend the same or more than what is usual for this time of year.

        Businesses with any capital expenditure plans over the next three months (a)

        Businesses with any capital expenditure plans over the next three months

        Businesses with any capital expenditure plans over the next three months (a)

        Businesses with capital expenditure plans over the next three months: yes (17%), no (70%) or don't know (13%).
        Of those businesses with capital expenditure plans: higher than usual for this time of year (59%), the same as usual (31%), lower than usual (3%) or unsure how plans compare to usual (8%).

          Capital expenditure plans over the next three months, by employment size

          Capital expenditure plans over the next three months

          Capital expenditure plans over the next three months, by employment size

          Proportion of businesses with capital expenditure plans: small business (16%), medium businesses (36%) and large businesses (62%).
          - Of small businesses with plans: these plans are higher than usual for this time of year (60%), same as usual (29%), lower than usual (3%) or unsure how they compare (8%).
          - Of medium businesses with plans: these plans are higher than usual for this time of year (51%), same as usual (36%), lower than usual (2%) or unsure how they compare (11%).
          - Of large businesses with plans: these plans are higher than usual for this time of year (28%), same as usual (54%), lower than usual (11%) or unsure how they compare (7%).

          Factors influencing future capital expenditure plans

          Businesses indicated which factors had significantly influenced their planned capital expenditure for the next three months. Businesses were also asked this question in February 2021 and November 2020.

            Factors influencing future capital expenditure plans (a)(b)

            Factors influencing future capital expenditure plans

            Factors influencing future capital expenditure plans (a)(b)

            Factors influencing future capital expenditure plans:
            - uncertainty around COVID-19 restrictions (19%);
            - demand for products and services (19%);
            - supply chain disruptions (18%);
            - future economic uncertainty (17%);
            - access to own funds (13%);
            - modifications in response to COVID-19 (9%);
            - tax incentives for investment (e.g. Temporary full expensing, Loss carry back regime, Backing business investment - accelerated depreciation) (8%);
            - access to external finance (7%);
            - other government support (e.g. Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme. SME recovery Loan Scheme) (5%).
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            (a) Proportions are of businesses with capital expenditure plans.
            (b) Not provided as a response option in November 2020.

            Data downloads

            Data downloads

            Previous catalogue number

            This release previously used catalogue number 5676.0.55.003