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Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19

Insights into the prevalence and nature of impacts from COVID-19 on businesses operating in Australia

Reference period
Week Commencing 30 March 2020
Released
7/04/2020

Key statistics

  • 90% of Australian businesses reported they were operating in the week commencing 30 March.
  • Of the 10% of businesses which reported they were not trading, 70% was due to COVID-19.

Business impacts of COVID-19 survey

This publication provides information on the incidence and nature of impacts due to COVID-19, as experienced by businesses operating in Australia. This is the second release of data from the survey. Results from the first survey were published on 26 March 2020.

Topics covered in this survey are:

  • Trading status of businesses;
  • Impacts on the workforce of businesses;
  • Operational impacts;
  • Management responses and strategies.
     

The period of collection of data for this survey, from 30 March to 3 April, immediately followed the Australian Government’s announcements of further social distancing restrictions and additional business support measures on 29 March 2020.

This release forms part of the suite of additional products that the ABS is producing to measure the economic impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The ABS is committed to future collection of data to measure the business impacts of COVID-19 and proposes to release this information at least once a month. Future information collected will evolve to maintain relevance in a changing environment.

Trading status of Australian businesses

Government intervention to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially changed the business operating environment in Australia.

Businesses reported whether they were actively trading; for those not trading they indicated whether this was due to COVID-19.

Overall, 90% of Australian businesses reported that they were operating in the week commencing 30 March. By employment size, the proportion of businesses trading were:

  • 90% of small businesses (i.e. 0-19 persons employed);
  • 93% of medium businesses (i.e. 20-199 persons employed);
  • 95% of large businesses (i.e. 200 or more persons employed).
     

Small businesses make up the vast majority of the total business population.

The area of each segment in the diagram below shows the share of each industry division in the Australian business population. The figures within the segments represent the proportion of businesses operating in each industry division in the week commencing 30 March.

Share of each industry in the Australian business population(a) and the proportion of businesses that are currently operating(b)

Image using area to convey the share in the Australian Business population by industry and proportion of businesses operating in each industry division

Share of each industry in the Australian business population(a) and the proportion of businesses that are currently operating(b)

The following image represents the share in the Australian Business population and the proportion of businesses operating in each industry division in the week commencing 30 March.

The area of each segment in the diagram shows the share of each industry division in the Australian business population.

The legend for the image shows 4 categories (proportion of businesses operating) by colour:

Blue: Over 95% of businesses currently trading
Green: 76 to 95% of businesses currently trading
Orange: 50 to 75% of businesses currently trading
Maroon: Less than 50% of businesses currently trading

The breakdown of the graph represents the proportion of businesses in each industry currently trading:

Green: Construction 94%.
Green: Retail, hiring and real estate services 93%.
Blue: Transport, postal and warehousing 96%.
Green: Health care and social assistance 93%.
Blue: Professional, scientific and technical services 96%.
Blue: Financial and insurance services 96%.
Green: Retail trade 76%.
Blue: Administrative and support services 96%.
Orange: Accommodation and food services 69%.
Green: Manufacturing 92%.
Green: Wholesale trade 85%.
Green: Education and training 88%.
Maroon: Arts and Recreation services 47%.
Orange: Information media and telecommunications 65%.
Green: Mining 85%.
Blue: Electricity, gas, water and waste 100%.
Green: Other services 88%.

a. ABS cat no. 8165.0 Counts of Australian Businesses as at June 2019, including Entries and Exits, June 2015 to June 2019.
b. Proportion of businesses operating was collected via the COVID-19 Survey.
  1. ABS cat no. 8165.0 Counts of Australian Businesses as at June 2019, including Entries and Exits, June 2015 to June 2019.
  2. Proportion of businesses operating was collected via the COVID-19 Survey.
     

By industry, less than half of businesses in Arts & recreation services were operating. Businesses in this industry account for 1% of the total business population.

By contrast, 96% of businesses in Professional, scientific and technical services were operating; businesses in this industry accounting for 12% of the total business population.

Pause in trading due to COVID-19

Of the 10% of businesses which reported that they were not trading, 70% reported that this was due to COVID-19.

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  1. Proportions are of businesses who reported having paused trading as a result of COVID-19.
  2. Businesses could select more than one option.
     

Overall, of those businesses which paused trading due to COVID-19, 84% reported that the pause was due to the introduction of government measures. This was the most common reason reported for all business sizes.

Business workforce changes

Businesses which were actively trading were asked whether they had made any changes to their workforce in the past two weeks as a result of COVID-19. Note that changes made could be either positive or negative.

Nearly half (47%) of trading businesses made changes to their workforce in the last two weeks as a result of COVID-19.

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  1. Graph presents selected workforce arrangements.
  2. Proportions are of businesses currently trading.
  3. Businesses could select more then one option.
     

A temporary reduction in staff work hours was reported by a quarter of businesses with 19 or less employees (25%), over two in five (41%) of businesses with 20-199 employees and a third (34%) of businesses with 200 or more employees.

Staffing capacity increases were most commonly reported by businesses with 200 or more employees, including having temporarily increased staff hours (10%) and hired additional employees (9%).

By industry, businesses that most commonly reported having temporarily increased staff hours were in Education and training (12%), Health care and social assistance (9%), Other services (9%), Retail trade (8%) and Administration and support services (5%). Reporting of staffing capacity increases was negligible in all other industries.

The diagram below shows the proportion of businesses in selected industries that reported having made changes to their workforce in the last two weeks. Also presented are the relative shares of each industry division of the total business population and of total jobs. These industries are the five largest employing industries and represent approximately half of all jobs (48%) in the Australian economy.

Largest employing industries: selected workforce changes in the last two weeks, by businesses trading in the week commencing 30 March(c)

Image shows 13% of jobs and 6% of businesses are in the Health care and social assistance industry
The health care and social assistance industry division has a 13 percent relative share of total jobs(a) and a 6 percent relative share of the total business population(b).

a. ABS Cat. No. 6150.0.55.003 - Labour Account Australia, Quarterly Estimates, December.
b. 2019 ABS Cat. No. 8165.0 - Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, June 2015 to June 2019.
c. Businesses could select more than one option.

63% of businesses made changes to the workforce.

Of all businesses in this industry:

  • 44% temporarily reduced staff work hours;
  • 42% changed staff location (e.g. staff worked from home);
  • 17% placed staff on unpaid leave;
  • 9% temporarily increased work hours.
     
Image shows 10% of jobs and 6% of businesses are in the Retail trade industry
The retail trade industry division has a 10 percent relative share of total jobs(a) and a 6 percent relative share of the total business population(b).

a. ABS Cat. No. 6150.0.55.003 - Labour Account Australia, Quarterly Estimates, December.
b. 2019 ABS Cat. No. 8165.0 - Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, June 2015 to June 2019.
c. Businesses could select more than one option.

47% of businesses made changes to the workforce.

Of all businesses in this industry:

  • 37% temporarily reduced staff work hours;
  • 18% changed staff location (e.g. staff worked from home);
  • 13% placed staff on unpaid leave;
  • 8% temporarily increased work hours.
     
Image shows 9% of jobs and 12% of businesses are in the Professional, scientific and technical services industry
The professional, scientific and technical industry division has a 9 percent relative share of total jobs(a) and a 12 percent relative share of the total business population(b).

a. ABS Cat. No. 6150.0.55.003 - Labour Account Australia, Quarterly Estimates, December.
b. 2019 ABS Cat. No. 8165.0 - Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, June 2015 to June 2019.
c. Businesses could select more than one option.

36% of businesses made changes to the workforce.

Of all businesses in this industry:

  • 25% changed staff location (e.g. staff worked from home);
  • 20% temporarily reduced staff work hours;
  • 20% placed staff on paid leave.
     
Image shows 8% of jobs and 17% of businesses are in the Construction industry
The construction industry division has a 8 percent relative share of total jobs(a) and a 17 percent relative share of the total business population(b).

a. ABS Cat. No. 6150.0.55.003 - Labour Account Australia, Quarterly Estimates, December.
b. 2019 ABS Cat. No. 8165.0 - Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, June 2015 to June 2019.
c. Businesses could select more than one option.

52% of businesses made changes to the workforce.

Of all businesses in this industry:

  • 23% temporarily reduced staff work hours;
  • 20% changed staff location (e.g. staff worked from home);
  • 13% placed staff on paid leave.
     
Image shows 8% of jobs and 4% of businesses are the Accommodation and food services industry
The accommodation and food services industry division has a 8 percent relative share of total jobs(a) and a 4 percent relative share of the total business population(b).

a. ABS Cat. No. 6150.0.55.003 - Labour Account Australia, Quarterly Estimates, December.
b. 2019 ABS Cat. No. 8165.0 - Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, June 2015 to June 2019.
c. Businesses could select more than one option.

78% of businesses made changes to the workforce.

Of all businesses in this industry:

  • 70% temporarily reduced staff work hours;
  • 43% placed staff on unpaid leave;
  • 29% placed staff on paid leave.

 

  1. ABS Cat. No. 6150.0.55.003 - Labour Account Australia, Quarterly Estimates, December.
  2. 2019 ABS Cat. No. 8165.0 - Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, June 2015 to June 2019.
  3. Businesses could select more than one option.

Business operational impacts and response

Businesses were asked to report the largest impacts as a result of COVID-19.

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  1. Proportions are of businesses currently trading.
  2. Businesses could select more than one option.
     

Two thirds of Australian businesses (66%) reported a reduction in turnover or cash flow as a result of COVID-19. Despite an overall reported reduction in turnover or cash flow, a number of businesses reported an increase in turnover or cash flow from the online component of their operations.

Download
  1. Proportions are of businesses currently trading.
  2. Businesses could select more than one option.
     

Social distancing measures have had a sizeable impact on the operating environment for businesses in Accommodation and food services; almost all businesses in this industry reported a reduction in turnover or cash flow. Nine out of ten (90%) businesses in Accommodation and food services also reported that government restrictions had had an adverse impact on operations.

Businesses reported how they have responded to the impacts of COVID-19.

Download
  1. Proportions are of businesses currently trading.
  2. Businesses could select more than one option.
     

Product and process related changes, such as changing the method of delivery of products or services, including a shift to online services was reported by almost four out of ten (38%) businesses, while only 10% reported having introduced new products.

The most commonly reported financial management response was renegotiation of property rent/lease arrangements (38%) and deferred loan repayments (24%).

Top 3 reported business responses, by type of response, by selected industry(a)(b)

Type of business responseMost commonly reported by business inProportion
Changed the method of delivery of products or services, including shifting to onlineAccommodation and food services66%
Health care and social assistance66%
Education and training57%
Other services57%
Information, media and telecommunications56%
Renegotiated property rent/lease arrangementsAccommodation and food services86%
Retail trade75%
Manufacturing51%
Brought forward investment plansRental, hiring and real estate services60%
Accommodation and food services46%
a. Proportions are of businesses currently trading.
b. Businesses could select more than one option. 

Data collection

The survey was conducted through a telephone based collection between 30 March and 3 April 2020, with a sample size of 3,000 businesses. These businesses form a sub-sample of those included in the March quarter 2020, Business Indicators Survey. The final response rate was 40%.

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

Show all

Supplementary business survey - business impacts from COVID-19

1(a) Is your business currently trading?
 ☐ Yes [Go to Question 2]
 ☐ No
  
 (b) Is the halt in business trading a result of COVID-19?
 ☐ Yes [Go to Question 1(c)]
 ☐ No [End of survey]
  
 (c) Can you please give more information on what has happened with the trading of this business?
 ☐ Paused business trading due to the introduction of government measures
 ☐ Demand affected this businesses products/services 
 ☐ Voluntary administration
 ☐ Made all employees redundant 
 ☐ Temporarily stood down all employees
 ☐ Other (please specify)
  
2(a) In the last two weeks, has this business made any change to its workforce as a result of COVID-19? 
 ☐ Yes
 ☐ No [Go to Question 3]
  
 (b) Which of the following changes has the business made to its workforce? (select all that apply)
 ☐ Temporarily reduced staff work hours
 ☐ Temporarily increased staff work hours
 ☐ Staff placed on paid leave
 ☐ Staff placed on unpaid leave (including staff stood down)
 ☐ Forced redundancies
 ☐ Hired additional employees
 ☐ Changed staff work location (e.g. staff working from home)
 ☐ Other (please specify)
  
3What have been the largest impacts on this business as a result of COVID-19? (select all that apply) 
 ☐ Reduction in turnover/cash flow
 ☐ Increase in turnover/cash flow
 ☐ Reduction in demand for products or services
 ☐ Increase in demand for products or services
 ☐ Difficulty in sourcing stock or raw materials
 ☐ Government restrictions on operations
 ☐ Other (please specify)
  
4How has this business responded to the impacts of COVID-19? (select all that apply) 
 ☐ Introduced new products
 ☐ Changed the method of delivery of products or services; including shifting to online services
 ☐ Deferred loan repayments
 ☐ Deferred or cancelled investment plans 
 ☐ Brought forward investment plans
 ☐ Renegotiated property rent/lease arrangements
 ☐ Changed quantity of orders of inputs (e.g. stock, raw materials)
 ☐ Changed payment terms with customers
 ☐ Changed payment terms with suppliers 
 ☐ Other (please specify)