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Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19

Insights into Australian business conditions and sentiments.

Reference period
December 2020

Key statistics

  • In December, 25% of businesses reported increased revenue over the last month.
  • One in five (21%) employing businesses reported they were having difficulty finding suitably skilled staff.
  • Two thirds (65%) of medium and large employing businesses plan to employ staff over the next three months.

The next release will be on 26 February 2021. This release will include data on changes in revenue, operating expenses and number of employees in January and February. 

From February 2021, this publication will be named Business Conditions and Sentiments

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.

Revenue, employees and expenses

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

 

Changes in revenue

From July through to November the proportion of businesses reporting a decrease in revenue fell each month. Between November and December, the proportion of businesses reporting a decrease remained stable (22% compared to 20%). Similarly, the proportion of businesses reporting an increase in revenue in December (25%) was comparable to November (24%).

 

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) Businesses were asked to report changes over the last month

Sentiments related to monthly revenue expectations have weakened, with over a quarter (27%) of businesses expecting a decrease in revenue over the next month from December, compared to 10% in November. A number of businesses commented that they expect revenue to decrease due to planned closures over the festive period.

Positive monthly revenue expectations were reported by one in five businesses (22%). These sentiments were predominant in industries where December seasonal factors are expected to influence such as Retail trade (40%) and Arts and recreation services (36%).

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

Changes in number of employees

One in ten (11%) businesses reported an increase in the number of employees in December. 

Medium businesses were three times as likely as small businesses to report an increase in the number of employees (30% compared to 10%). 

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) Businesses were asked to report changes over the last month

Changes in operating expenses

Almost a quarter (24%) of businesses reported an increase in operating expenses in December, compared to 18% in November.

Medium businesses (32%) were more likely than small (23%) and large (27%) businesses to report an increase in operating expenses in December.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) Businesses were asked to report changes over the last month

Number of employees - changes and influencing factors

Employing businesses reported on how current employee numbers compared to this time last year.

Employee numbers compared to this time last year (proportions are of employing businesses): 21% have more employees, 54% have about the same and 23% have fewer employees
Employee numbers compared to this time last year (proportions are of employing businesses):
- 21% have more employees;
- 54% have about the same; and
- 23% have fewer employees

Medium (34%) and large (35%) employing businesses were more likely than small businesses (22%) to report they have fewer employees compared to this time last year. 

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

 

Businesses with more or fewer employees compared to this time last year, top industries (a)(b)

Top industries with businesses that had more employees than compared to this time last year: Administrative and support services (41%), Mining (30%), Health care and social assistance (28%), Other services (27%) and Rental, hiring and real estate (27%). Top industries with businesses that had fewer employees than compared to this time last year: Information, media and telecommunications (37%), Accommodation and food services (34%), Retail trade (32%) and Arts and recreation services (31%).
Top industries with businesses that had more employees than compared to this time last year: Administrative and support services (41%), Mining (30%), Health care and social assistance (28%), Other services (27%) and Rental, hiring and real estate (27%).
Top industries with businesses that had fewer employees than compared to this time last year: Information, media and telecommunications (37%), Accommodation and food services (34%), Retail trade (32%) and Arts and recreation services (31%).

Whether businesses have sufficient employees

Almost one in six (15%) employing businesses reported that, based on current operations, they do not have a sufficient number of employees.

Medium employing businesses (23%) were more likely than small (15%) and large businesses (12%) to report they do not have sufficient employees.

 

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

(b) Businesses were asked to report whether they had a sufficient number of employees based on current operations

Employing businesses in the following industries were the most likely to report having insufficient employees:

  • Manufacturing (34%);
  • Arts and recreation services (28%); and,
  • Wholesale trade (24%).

 

Factors influencing number of employees

Employing businesses reported on factors influencing the number of people they employed.

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

(b) Businesses could select more than one response

Factors influencing number of employees, top industries (a)(b)

Factors influencing number of employees by top industries
Factors influencing number of employees by top industries:
- Availability of existing employees to work: Accommodation and food services (54%), Wholesale trade (37%) and Retail trade (34%);
- Government wage subsidies: Accommodation and food services (44%), Arts and recreation services (38%) and Retail trade (33%);
- Inability to find suitable staff: Accommodation and food services (44%), Electricity, gas, water and waste services (38%) and Manufacturing (35%);
- International and domestic border closures: Accommodation and food services (41%), Mining (35%) and Transport, postal and warehousing (29%);
- Difficulty retaining staff: Administrative and support services (27%), Manufacturing (24%) and Accommodation and food services (21%);
- JobMaker hiring credit: Accommodation and food services (17%), Arts and recreation services (14%) and Retail trade (11%).

Operational changes influencing the number of employees

Employing businesses reported on whether the number of people they employed was influenced by operational changes.

Medium and large businesses were more likely than small businesses to report that each of the operational changes had influenced their number of employees.

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

(b) Businesses could select more than one response

Skills shortages

One in five (21%) employing businesses reported they were having difficulty finding suitably skilled or qualified staff for jobs.

Medium businesses (41%) were more likely to report they were having difficulty finding suitable staff for jobs, compared to small (19%) and large (29%) businesses.

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

Businesses in Accommodation and food services (33%) and Other services (33%) were the most likely to report they had jobs they were having difficulty finding staff for, while businesses in Retail trade (7%) were the least likely. 

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

(b) Businesses were asked to report if they were having difficulty finding suitable staff for jobs

(c) Includes repair and maintenance, personal (e.g. hairdressers) and other services

Businesses reporting skills shortages provided additional comments on the types of jobs for which they were having difficulty finding suitable staff. The following word cloud presents the types of jobs reported by these businesses. More common responses are bigger and bolder.

Key occupation categories reported by businesses that reported having difficulty finding suitable staff: include tradespersons, hospitality workers, labourers, drivers, STEM professionals, and others.
Key occupation categories reported by businesses that reported having difficulty finding suitable staff: include tradespersons, hospitality workers, labourers, drivers, STEM professionals, and others.

Future workforce actions

Employing businesses reported on workforce actions they plan to take over the next three months.

Two thirds (65%) of medium and large employing businesses plan to employ new staff over the next three months and around half of medium (49%) and large (52%) businesses expect to re-train or upskill existing staff to fill skills gaps.

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(a) Proportions are of employing businesses

(b) Businesses could select more than one response

Top workforce actions by top industries
Top workforce actions by top industries:
- Employ new staff: Accommodation and food services (62%), Education and training (57%) and Manufacturing (56%);
- Retrain or upskill existing staff: Other services (55%), Arts and recreation services (54%) and Information, media and telecommunication services (50%);
- Increase staff hours: Manufacturing (61%), Accommodation and food services (44%) and Arts and recreation services (37%).

Data downloads

Business Impacts of COVID-19, December 2020

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5676.0.55.003