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Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19

Insights into Australian business conditions and sentiments.

Reference period
November 2020

Key statistics

  • In November, 24% of businesses reported an increase in revenue compared with 16% in October.
  • One in five (22%) businesses reported having capital expenditure plans for the next three months.
  • The proportion of businesses reporting economic uncertainty as a factor influencing their capital expenditure has halved since August, falling from 59% to 29%.

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, expenses and number of employees

Businesses reported on changes in revenue, operating expenses 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.

 

Changes in revenue

One in five (22%) businesses reported a revenue decrease in November. The proportion of businesses that reported a decrease in revenue has fallen each month since July. A greater proportion of businesses reported increased revenue in November compared to previous months (24% compared to 16% in October and 13% in September).

This is the first time in the monthly series that a greater proportion of businesses have reported increased revenue (24%) compared to decreased revenue (22%).

 

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

Sentiments related to monthly revenue expectations also improved, with a quarter (25%) of businesses expecting an increase in revenue for December. This is more than twice the proportion that expected an increase in revenue for August (11%) and September (9%).  

The industries most likely to report an expected increase in revenue for December were:

  • Accommodation and food services (49%)
  • Electricity, gas, water and waste services (36%)
  • Retail trade (32%)

A number of businesses commented that the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria and seasonal demand factors had influenced their revenue expectations.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

Changes in number of employees

In November, 8% of businesses reported an increase in the number of employees. 

Medium and large businesses were more than twice as likely as small businesses to report an increase in the number of employees (19% and 20% compared to 8%).  

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

Main factors reported by businesses in relation to the November increase in the number of employees were 'business expansion' and 'seasonal variation'. 

One in ten businesses expect to increase the number of employees in December. These businesses were most likely to comment that 'seasonal variation' was influencing this expectation. Accommodation and food services (31%) was the industry with the greatest proportion expecting an increase in the number of employees for December.

 

Changes in operating expenses

The proportion of businesses reporting an increase in operating expenses fell from 24% in October to 18% in November.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

Planned and usual capital expenditure

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

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

Businesses that usually have capital expenditure at this time of year: yes (11%), no (79%) and don't know (10%). Businesses with any capital expenditure plans for the next three months: yes (22%), no (66%) and don't know (12%).
Businesses that usually have capital expenditure at this time of year: yes (11%), no (79%) and don't know (10%). Businesses with any capital expenditure plans for the next three months: yes (22%), no (66%) and don't know (12%).

Large businesses were more than twice as likely than small and medium businesses to report that they usually have capital expenditure this time of year (52% compared to 10% and 24%). They were also more likely to report planned capital expenditure over the next three months (55% compared to 21% and 35%).

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) Capital expenditure plans include those over the next three months

Businesses in Retail trade (41%) were the most likely to report planned capital expenditure over the next three months while businesses in Administrative and support services (7%) and Transport, postal and warehousing (7%) were the least likely. 

 

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

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. Those that had no plans also provided information about whether plans had been cancelled or deferred.

Of the 22% of businesses that had capital expenditure plans over the next three months, almost three quarters (73%) expect to spend the same or more than what is usual for this time of year.

Businesses with any capital expenditure plans (22% yes, 66% no and 12% don't know). Of those businesses with plans, 52% reported this was higher than usual, 21% lower than usual, 6% lower than usual and 22% were unsure how it compared to usual. Of those businesses with no plans, 11% had deferred plans and 5% had cancelled plans.
Businesses with any capital expenditure plans (22% yes, 66% no and 12% don't know). Of those businesses with plans, 52% reported this was higher than usual, 21% lower than usual, 6% lower than usual and 22% were unsure how it compared to usual. Of those businesses with no plans, 11% had deferred plans and 5% had cancelled plans.

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

 
 How those capital expenditure plans compare to what is usual this time of year(a)(b)
Proportion of businesses with capital expenditure plansHigher than usualSame as usualLower than usualDon't know
Small businesses
21% have capital expenditure plans(c)
53%19%6%23%
Medium businesses
35% have capital expenditure plans(c)
49%32%6%12%
Large businesses
55% have capital expenditure plans(c)
29%44%19%7%
(a) Proportions are of businesses with capital expenditure plans
(b) The sum of the component items may not equal 100% due to rounding
(c) Proportions are of all businesses    

 

 

Types of assets businesses intend to purchase

Businesses with capital expenditure plans over the next three months reported on the types of assets they intend to purchase.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) For example, office equipment, furniture, hand and power tools, forklifts or pumps

Types of assets businesses plan to purchase by type of asset, top reporting industries(a)(b)

Type of assetTop reporting industries
IT hardware or software26% Professional, scientific and technical services
25% Retail trade
18% Information media and telecommunications
Registered road vehicle18% Electricity, gas, water and waste services
13% Mining
12% Information media and telecommunications
Other equipment or machinery (c)25% Retail trade
21% Mining
20% Manufacturing
Buildings and other structure15% Retail trade
15% Education and training
10% Arts and recreation
(a) Proportions are of all businesses
(b) Businesses could provide more than one response to the question
(c) For example, office equipment, furniture, hand and power tools, forklifts or pumps

Factors influencing business expenditure on capital

Businesses indicated which factors had significantly influenced their planned capital expenditure for the next three months.

Factors influencing capital expenditure plans (a)(b)

Factors influencing capital expenditure plans: future economic uncertainty (29%), demand for products and services (25%), access to business's own funds (19%), other government support (18%), modifications made in response to COVID-19 (17%), supply chain disruptions (13%), tax incentives for investment (13%) and access to external finance (8%).

Factors influencing capital expenditure plans (a)(b)

Factors influencing capital expenditure plans: future economic uncertainty (29%), demand for products and services (25%), access to business's own funds (19%), other government support (18%), modifications made in response to COVID-19 (17%), supply chain disruptions (13%), tax incentives for investment (13%) and access to external finance (8%).

Less than one third (29%) of businesses reported future economic uncertainty influenced their planned capital expenditure. This compares with 59% of businesses in August.

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(a) Proportions are of all businesses

(b) For August, proportions are of businesses that reported current or expected future demand influenced expenditure on capital

(c) Proportions are of businesses that reported that tax incentives for investment or other government support measures influenced expenditure on capital

(d) Proportions are of businesses that reported that access to businesses own funds or external finance influenced expenditure on capital

For those businesses with planned capital expenditure, the most common factor influencing expenditure plans, across all employment sizes, was demand for products or services.

 

Factors influencing businesses with capital expenditure plans, by employment size (a)(b)

 Small businessesMedium businessesLarge businesses
 %%%
Demand for this business's products or services494743
Business modifications in response to COVID-19322728
Future economic uncertainty362625
Access to business's own funds413328
Access to external finance181817
Domestic or international supply chain disruptions212016
Other Government support373918
Tax incentives for investment403717
(a) Proportions are of businesses with capital expenditure plans over the next three months
(b) Businesses could provide more than one response to the question

Data downloads

Business Impacts of COVID-19, November 2020

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5676.0.55.003